As the session is ending, the buzz is all about property tax reform, the bathroom bill and whether or not Texas reps can open the House chamber doors and yell loud enough across the capitol rotunda so that the Senate and the Lt. Governor can hear their displeasure about the house bills that have not been referred to Senate committees. But, there is one item that is going mostly unnoticed. It is the change that was made in the budget over the weekend in which the Senate has agreed to dip into the “rainy day fund” to the tune of $1 billion and to give millions to Alamo-related spending.
In 2006, the San Antonio conservation Society launched the nomination process to designate the Alamo and four of the other missions as World Heritage sites by the United Nations. In July 2015, under the newly elected Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the sites gained the status. It was the first time in the history of our state that any site had been deemed to have “outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity” by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization).
During the 84th Texas legislative session of that same year, Governor Abbott, Speaker Straus, and Lt. Governor Dewhurst committed $25,000,000 to the project with the City of San Antonio committing $17,000,000. The State also purchased three historic buildings, the Crockett, Woolworth and Palace, which surround the Alamo and became landlords to the private businesses that occupied those buildings. These buildings will become a museum with the tenants being relocated to other properties.
The tenure of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as caretakers of the Alamo also came to an end during March of this same year. The Daughters were designated as caretakers of the shrine in 1905 by the legislature and had cared for the mission and the surrounding site for the majority of those years without state funding.
The way in which the Daughters were ousted from their position led to a lawsuit being filed against George P. Bush and the General Land Office on the grounds of unconstitutional taking of private property which included the library collection and artifacts. A settlement was reached in July of 2016 in which the land office agreed it did not own the contents of the collection. The DRT was also reimbursed for legal fees of $200,000 and continued as the managers of the vast collection of historic books, photographs, documents and artifacts.
In October 2015, the city of San Antonio, the Texas General Land Office, and the nonprofit Alamo Endowment entered into a cooperative agreement to develop a $330,000,000+ joint master plan for the Alamo Historic District and Alamo Complex to redevelop the beloved Texas site. This plan can be viewed at reimaginethealamo.org.
In an editorial from October 2015 Commissioner Bush made the comment “we know more funds will be necessary” after receiving funding from the legislature and city. Commissioner Bush, true to his word, approached the state legislature in February of this year and requested $75,000,000.
Senator Jane Nelson made mention at that time that the State’s budget would be tight and a proposal of $9.1 million in state funding for the operation, preservation and maintenance of the complex was put into the Senate’s version of the budget.
Surprisingly, after budget conferees finished up on Saturday night’s negotiations, this amount has blossomed into a total of $87.8 million to Alamo related spending, $75 million of which will go directly to the Alamo redevelopment project.
As of today, there has not been a complete budget agreement reached between the House and the Senate.
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