Texas Historical Commission Funding
On February 7th Governor Rick Perry issued a 2012-2013 budget that eliminates funding for the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The adoption of this recommendation would be even more devastating to our state’s heritage than the recently released Texas House and Senate budgets (HB1 and SB1) that would slash total funding for the THC by nearly 80%. These proposals impose a significantly greater cut than the average budget reduction of 28% proposed by the House and Senate for other “General Government” agencies. As legislators face difficult budget decisions, it would be shortsighted to make such disproportionate cuts in the important historic preservation and economic development programs this agency administers.
All three proposals would have an irreparable impact to our state’s treasured heritage, and the impact of Governor Perry’s proposal would be unprecedented in the nation. The Texas Historical Commission provides essential economic development support for small and large communities across our state. Eliminating the agency that drives this economic engine would result in lower sales tax revenues, loss of both public and private sector jobs, increased demands on local preservation organizations, and irreversible loss of our heritage through unregulated alteration and demolition of cultural resources. Without preservation, we will lose the distinctive heritage that helps to make our cities and state a desirable destination for tourists, as well as new residents and businesses. Such ill considered cuts would be counterproductive to our state's financial recovery.
While the repercussions of the Governor’s proposals are yet to be vetted, federal funding is almost certainly at risk. The THC received approximately $1.3 million in federal funding last year to administer the National Register, Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, Certified Local Government, and Section 106 programs. The Federal funding requires at least a 40% match in state funds. The THC has been administering these programs for more than 50 years - it would be extremely ineffective to consider any other method of administering these federal programs at the state level.
The House and Senate versions of the budget include proposed cuts such as:
Elimination of 76 THC staff positions including more than half of the staff based in Austin.
Funding for preservation assistance to architectural and archeological sites will be cut in half. Programs affected include the Archeological Stewards Network and on-site disaster review.
No new funds to restore County courthouses, a program that in 12 years has created 5,800 Texas jobs and nearly $40 million in state and local tax revenues, as well as bringing new life to commercial districts in rural communities.