Texas Increases Border Security Spending, Uses Federal Government Dollars For One-Time Spending In Expense Bill
Updated at 6 p.m. with comments from State Representative Rafael Anchía.
AUSTIN – A second spending bill that complements the proposed state budget would increase overall spending on border security by about 25% from levels projected in January, largely thanks to COVID financial assistance -19 of Congress.
The supplementary supply bill, which the Senate Finance Committee approved Friday 8-0, now goes to the full Senate.
Given that it was negotiated with House leaders alongside the two-year state budget, the revised Bill 2 is expected to gain final approval from both chambers in the coming days.
Under the bill, using dollars for rainy days, Dallas would receive long-wanted planning money for a new mental hospital, and state agency computers and the construction of the Capitol complex in Austin. would be stimulated.
Using general-purpose state revenue freed up by federal coronavirus relief funds as well as additional state sales tax dollars sourced, in part, from a robust online business, Texas would tackle a long list of other priorities – with the southern border at the top of the list.
Eager to step up their attacks on President Joe Biden’s handling of a recent wave of Central Americans passing through Mexico to the United States, state GOP leaders want to increase introduced security budget by $ 797 million borders to about $ 1 billion.
The money would help fund additional deployments of guards, troops and equipment along the Texas-Mexico border, although full details were not available Friday morning.
However, the budget speakers’ “decision documents” released Wednesday night indicated $ 57 million in Senate Bill 1, the budget, “for 100 additional border officers” and some $ 38 million in HB. 2 for “vehicles and related equipment” and “an additional border security equipment.”
The documents also mention more than $ 100 million for expanding the deployment of the guards.
From Department of Parks and Wildlife fees held in special accounts, HB 2 would pay for a new $ 6.5 million helicopter, according to a three page summary of HB 2 that Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson R-Flower Mound released legislative budget staffers on Friday. The document did not indicate how the helicopter would be used, although game wardens have been part of the Texas show of force for years at the border.
Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze welcomed the additional spending related to border security.
“Because the Biden administration is failing to do its job and resolve the border crisis, Texas is stepping up and filling the gaps,” Eze said in a written statement. “We are grateful that the Legislature has allocated significant resources as we strive to secure our southern border.”
Some Democrats have questioned state spending, noting that Texas peace officers cannot enforce federal immigration law.
On Friday night, Dallas Democratic Representative Rafael Anchía said he was showing “wrong and misplaced” priorities for Abbott and other GOP leaders to push spending more for greater visibility and activity. police at the border, rather than retired teachers, residents who need electricity bills, and people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
“A billion dollars would make a big difference in the lives of our fellow Texans,” Anchía, chairman of the Mexican US Legislative Caucus, said in a written statement. “But rather than invest in families, Gov. Abbott continues to bow to national trend rhetoric [and] turns his back on the Texans who are still recovering.
Nelson noted a variation of nearly $ 8 billion in general revenue from Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s forecast last July, at the height of the pandemic.
“Texas is coming back in force,” she said.
The current budget, written in 2019, included assumptions that were later refuted. But then the state economy picked up its momentum. The image of budget writing didn’t turn out so bad, Nelson noted.
“At each session, we correct these projections with an additional budget that takes into account unforeseen costs or changes in income, as well as additional needs,” she noted.
Vance Ginn, chief economist for the free-market-focused Texas Public Policy Foundation, said lawmakers had done a “great” job of restraining spending. HB 2 would deliver net savings in state coffers of $ 3.4 billion across all funds, which include investment income and federal funds, he noted.
“This may be the first negative credit for a supplementary bill – ever,” he told senators.
On several occasions, state GOP leaders have said they want to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds on one-time, non-recurring expenses. The budget package reflects both this and an apparent desire to “pre-load” spending in the current cycle, so that SB 1 is not in danger of breaking a constitutional spending ceiling.
In HB 2, budget writers prepay $ 1 billion into the property tax relief fund. They spend $ 893 million on IT upgrades at state agencies. Yes a bill from Senator Joan Huffman of the Houston GOP becomes law, HB 2 would also inject about $ 1 billion into the pension fund of the employee pension system. If lawmakers don’t act, the fund will be cash-strapped by 2061.
Dallas executives, who have lobbied in previous sessions for money to build a new state mental hospital, are reportedly seeing progress. According to Nelson’s office, HB 2 reports that $ 44.8 million in rainy day funds are approved “to begin pre-planning and planning efforts for a new public hospital in the greater Dallas area. Fort Worth, including the acquisition of land for this purpose. “
The bill would mine $ 36.3 million of rainy days money to complete interiors for Phase 1 of the Capitol Complex construction project, which creates more office buildings north of the Capitol.
Part of what made this session’s budget easier to draft is that money from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund paid nearly $ 4 billion in salaries and benefits for healthcare workers and state public safety during the 2020-2021 cycle, which ends in August.
Continuing to pay for the 2019 overhaul of school funding and property tax cuts also turned out to be easier than expected.
In the current cycle, the state has been able to reduce its general fund obligation for schools by $ 5.2 billion for several reasons: soaring property values in most places, which has led to an increase in local property tax revenues, reduced the IOU from the state to schools. Also, more sales tax money from e-commerce has arrived than expected. In the 2019 legislation, this money was dedicated to efforts to strengthen state support for schools.
And last year, leaders took $ 1.15 billion in federal COVID relief for schools and replaced it with general revenue the state would have otherwise spent.
Christy Rome of the Texas School Coalition, a group of property-rich school districts that need to make “Robin Hood” transfers of property tax revenues to poor property districts, noted that $ 1.4 billion of the reduced state contribution to the Foundation’s schools program, the main aid program comes from higher than expected “clawback” payments.
“The property values have exceeded what was projected, and that’s what is causing it,” she said of the $ 5.2 billion windfall given to the budget writers of the ‘State.