Thursday, January 03, 2013

Use of crime victim funds for nonprofit pork depleted account

The Austin Statesman reported today that the use of Texas' Crime Victim Compensation Fund to dole out grants to nonprofits has depleted the fund, which was originally designed to reimburse expenses of crime victims. Reported the paper ("State funds for crime victim services organizations at risk," Jan. 2):
steep declines in the state Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund mean ... victim services programs across the state ... might have to be eliminated or reduced.

The compensation fund, which reimburses victims of violent crime for expenses not covered by insurance or restitution, has seen a declining balance since Texas lawmakers decided about a decade ago to tap into the fund to support programs serving battered women, sexual assault victims and abused children.

Two years ago, amid a state budget crunch, legislative leaders used the fund to pay for victim services programs that had previously been paid for from the state’s general fund. As a result, since 2001, the fund’s balance of $269 million has slowly eroded and will be nearly depleted by the end of August.

The state attorney general’s office, which administers the fund, has said legislative action will be needed to preserve the fund’s financial stability. Grants awarded to victim services organizations might have to be reduced by 57 percent, said Marla Johnson, executive director for the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center.

In 2011, more than $39 million in grants was awarded to 437 nonprofit organizations and government agencies that serve crime victims, according to the attorney general’s office, including domestic violence shelters and victim advocacy centers.

Money for the fund comes largely from court costs imposed on defendants in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. Since 2008, there has been an estimated 3 percent average decline in those collections, according to the attorney general’s office.
For reference, here's a list of the 2012 grantees. Brandi Grissom at the Texas Tribune had a story last year presaging this development.

The Legislature created this problem by raiding the fund and they could easily fix it by throwing more money at it. OTOH, that response may not jibe with the Governor's budget compact or the predilections of an army of small-government Tea-Party aficionados at the Lege. Cutting funds for popular pork projects is the sort of thing that puts one's fiscal conservatism directly to the test.


Anonymous said...

How did any of this money go to programs at all! This should be going back to victims, 100% of the money!

Anonymous said...

These programs are a vital part of restoring the lives of victims, including shelter, counseling, legal assistance, and safety. An intelligent comment would have been more appropriate. Visit a local program in your community to learn more.

CK said...

Re: Anon's comment above, FWIW, the only funds available in the form of program grants from OAG are those funds in excess of direct payouts to crime victims.