Texas Tourism under fire

A proposed elimination of Texas Historical Commission and Texas Commission on the Arts discounts the positive effect of tourism as part of our cultural heritage.

As a proponent of Texas travel and tourism, I understand the effect that travel can have on educating our citizenry, as well as increasing tax revenue.  Texas, like other states, is facing a budget crisis.  Texas governor Rick Perry, in a short-sighted weilding of the budget axe proposed to cut all funding to the Texas Historical Commission and the Commission on the Arts.

The Texas Historical Commission was already facing a 50% funding cut in the legislature’s budget, and Perry proposed a 2-year elimination of the agency, saving taxpayers an astonishingly insignificant 38 cents per person per year. The Commission for the Arts costs even less, so its proposed elimination would make a smaller impact.  Yet, the agencies have a great role in supporting tourism, especially impactful on smaller communities with their historic sites, small-town festivals.

Related article from Austin American-Statesman: Arts, historical agencies’ proposed cuts draw backlash

While there are parts of Texas history I would prefer to forget (let’s say slavery for one), history is an important part of our cultural heritage.  The Texas Historical Commission supports small museums and other historic sites, including cemeteries and courthouses.  It operates 20 locations, including Casa Navarro in downtown San Antonio and Eisenhower’s birthplace.  Governor Perry should read the words written by his wife, First Lady Anita Perry, about the Courthouse Preservation Program funded by the Texas Historical Commission:  “Texas’ historic courthouses define our communities and connect its citizens with their past. Our courthouses are not only our personal treasures, they are our shared responsibility, and we must work together to ensure all Texans, present and future, will experience the remarkable legacy we have been so fortunate to have inherited.”

Perhaps I do not really like every festival or event that the Texas Commission on the Arts supports, but they build the cultural fabric of the state, making it a better place to live and visit.  Figuring out ways to share this culture instead of eliminate it would benefit the people of Texas, and it could actually benefit the Texas economy, especially as other states are sure to make a similar mistake that could make Texas more appealing as a destination.

Direct travel spending in Texas was $51.8 billion in 2009, and $3.6 billion was generated in local and state tax revenues within Texas.  Will cutting these two programs remove a significant chunk of this money?  No.  But this data shows that the impact of travel on Texas cannot be underestimated.  I would not support expenditures resulting in empty jobs or no economic or cultural benefit to our citizenry.  But there is something interesting about watching a state boast about the positive impacts of tourism and then propose a total elimination of agencies that support this industry in ways that are unlikely to be replaced by private funding.

At least there is one positive.  If we remove the Texas Historical Commission, there will be fewer people with the task of remembering this historic mistake.

Texas Commission on the Arts:  http://www.arts.state.tx.us/index.php
Texas Historical Commission:  http://www.thc.state.tx.us/
Source of data:  The Economic Imact of Travel in Texas, report (ironically?) funded by the State of Texas:  http://www.travel.state.tx.us/getattachment/06934ffa-1a80-470c-adfc-1e8f92984a3e/TXImp09p.aspx.  Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuseeger/2490073740/
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