Sunday, January 30, 2011

TAC lists unfunded mandates to counties from proposed House budget

A friend forwarded me a summary from the Texas Association of Counties regarding unfunded mandates from the proposed draft House budget, which I've uploaded to Google Documents. (I've always felt an affinity for TAC, since my grandfather W.D. Henson was one of its founders and their first president.) Though the list focuses on a much broader array of issues, here's a sampling of criminal-justice related topics where TAC says counties would be impacted:
  • Reducing criminal justice grants from the Governor's Office to state and local entities, non-profit organizations, and independent school districts for a variety of criminal justice related projects. 56 percentage reduction from all funds ($319 million to $140 million).
  • Reducing funds by 15 percent for grants to counties for the indigent defense program.
  • Community supervision (adult probation) provides programs and services to offenders who are on probation. 21 percent reduction from all funds.
  • Funding for Basic Probation and Community Corrections is distributed to 165 local probation departments around the state in the form of grants. 11 percent reduction from all funds.
  • Funding for Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs reduced by 28 percent ($24 million to $17 million). Mandatory JJAEP reimbursement reduced from $79 to $59.
  • Funding eliminated for Harris County juvenile boot camp.
In addition, drug court grants from the Governor's office would be cut by more than half, and counties will be required to pay a fee for inspections by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, to replace the zeroed out line item where the state used to pay for them. Also, reductions in funding for state mental hospitals and community mental health services\ will inevitably put greater pressure on local jails and law enforcement.

The criminal justice system has a lot of moving parts, and spending reductions in one area can easily cause costs to balloon in another. By the same token, the much greater "unfunded mandate" goes in the other direction: Locals decide who goes to prison, but the state pays for their incarceration. This conversation is only just beginning regarding unfunded mandates caused by state criminal justice cuts.


Anonymous said...

"Locals decide who goes to prison, but the state pays for their incarceration."

And the state pays for it by using taxpayer generated monies; so taxpayers pay for it, not the state. :)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You could say the same of "unfunded mandates" to counties in the other direction, but it wouldn't make them complain any less.

In the real world, as opposed to in some philosophical discussion, money in the system comes from different budgets based on different state and county revenue (read: tax) streams, with each side of the equation offloading costs on the other when it's convenient. If you actually want to cut the overall tax burden, there are a lot of moving parts to account for.

Soronel Haetir said...

Umm, most of the items in your list hardly qualify as unfunded mandates as there is no command to undertake the activity to begin with. Unless I am greatly mistaken there is no requirement, for example, that counties have a jail at all. As for commanding non-profits to undertake the functions of government, well, that seems like something of a joke for most of these items. Most of this list looks more like an unfunded wish-list, or "can we find a sucker to pay for this stuff so we don't have to?"

Best of luck to the counties getting the label to stick though, if they can manage that then political victory will be very nearly within their grasp.

Anonymous said...

"Unless I am greatly mistaken there is no requirement, for example, that counties have a jail at all."

I believe you are greatly mistaken.

Sec. 351.001. DUTY TO PROVIDE JAILS; LOCATION. (a) The commissioners court of a county shall provide safe and suitable jails for the county.(b) The jails must be located at the county seat unless the county has only one jail, in which case the jail may be located anywhere in the county at the discretion of the commissioners court.
Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 1, Sec. 64(e), eff. Aug. 28, 1989.

Anonymous said...

Actually Briscoe County does not have a jail. It uses Swisher. Probably other low population counties use a neighboring county's jail.

charles in tulia

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Soronel, "unfunded mandates" was perhaps a poorly chosen phrase, and mine, not theirs. I was reacting to things like indigent defense, basic probation, JJAEPs, etc., that are required but de-funded, but you're right not everything on the list meets that definition. FWIW, their document merely details cuts that will "impact counties," which would probably have been a more accurate characterization. Read it, it's got a lot more detail than the sampling provided here, some actual "unfunded mandates," some just cuts that impact counties in various ways.

Charles, a few small counties contract with larger ones for jail services, but even if prisoners are shipped out of county or housed by a private company, the Sheriff is still responsible for provision of those services. They don't get to not have one.

Anonymous said...

I understand the contract thing Scott. It probably helps Swisher's budget. But it sounds like it's outside the law as cited by Anon. 1/30 9:14 PM. Maybe some of the amendments cited there cover the practice.

Actually, there's a jail in Briscoe County, no longer in use. I have visited the monstrosity. It's pretty stark early 20th century. All that's missing is a gallows.


Anonymous said...

PS: Interesting historical note concerning Briscoe County law enforcement. At one time, Briscoe County had a sheriff who was not old enough to vote. He was appointed by the commissioner's court. He was one of Larry McMurtry's (of "Lonesome Dove" fame) six uncles. I worked on a farm and ranch in Briscoe County for another of those seven brothers. For what it's worth, the only contact I had with Briscoe County LE was a jury summons. The case never went to trial, so I did not get that experience.


Anonymous said...

PPS: I did get a half day off from the hard work of the ranch, and a few bucks--I don't remember how many, not many for sure in 1956. I had to drive about thirty miles on mostly dirt roads, about five of those miles winding steep roads across Tule Canyon.

This experience may be enlightening to readers who think Rev. Charles from Tulia is just an eggheaded squishy wishy liberal pseudointellectual.

Don said...

Doubt if anyone who kept up with your writing, work, etc. on the Great Tulia Drug Bust thought that anyway, Charles. :)

Don Dickson said...

From the Silver Lining Department:

Grits, I bristled recently when Lt. Gov. Dewhurst suggested that the budget shortfall was an "opportunity" - but in one respect at least it turns out that he may have been right.

I was watching Fox 7 News (Austin) last night when they reported with an unmistakable tone of alarm that one program that has been cut from the state budget will, they said, "make it easier for high school athletes to use steroids."

I spit iced tea halfway across my living room.

So maybe the Lieutenant Governor is on to something here. We'll all feel better about the budget if we learn of all the stupid and cost-ineffective things we're going to stop spending money on, like insanely expensive testing on tens of thousands of high school athletes to find a dozen who test positive for steroids.

Government Grants said...

I am greatly mistaken there is no requirement, for example, that counties have a jail at all. The commissioner’s court of a county shall provide safe and suitable jails for the county.

Anonymous said...

My son has recently been sent to Garza East they are on lock down getting 2 boiled eggs and peanutbutter sandwich for breakfast 1 peanutbutter sandwich and another sandwich for lunch and a peanutbutter sandwich and some other sandwich for dinner how can this be healthy for anyone? It's not to hard to tell which posts are from people with loved ones in prison and the ones who only tink they know how things work...