Monday, November 10, 2008

Tight budget times call for scrapping Big Brother

Saying "no" to a couple of ill-conceived, Big-Brotherish initiatives in the Department of Public Safety's exceptional items budget would save the Texas taxpayers $159 million in a time when budgets are tight. Neither are an effective use of criminal justice resources compared to other ways the state could use that much money.

For starters, in its list of "exceptional items" (pdf) in its legislative budget request, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it would cost $129,147,375 over the next biennium to implement the federal REAL ID Act. Strangely, that's about half the amount DPS said implementation would cost in 2007 (when the Legislature declined to fund the changes), but it's still a lot of money. Back then, DPS estimated the ongoing costs for Real ID implementation would be as much as $100 million per year after startup was complete - perhaps that number for the out-year costs will decline, too, now that Col. Tommy Davis, who was resistant to implementing Real ID, is no longer in charge of the agency.

Another DPS exceptional item requests around $30 million over two years to pay for the infamous TDEX database (a Texas' version of "Total Information Awareness"), which the Legislature declined to fund but which the Governor developed anyway using federal grants. This is as much an unfunded mandate as the Real ID Act, it's just coming from the Governor instead of from Congress.

In both instances, in the words of Bartleby the Scrivener, "I would prefer not to." As far as I'm concerned, both projects should scrapped and the $159 million spent on more worthy criminal justice programs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At the Republican Party of Texas convention, Darth Dewhurst pointedly stated that Texas will proceed with REAL ID, re-issuing every d/l and other state id document. Left unsaid was that we'd all be queing up at dps with our 'source docs' (yeah, if we can find 'em or pay for copies) for new issue biometric encrypted state papers. That means no internet renewals, no mail renewals, everyone shows up at the dps.

Dewhurst was the only speaker to receive a round of catcalls and boos...

Time for Texas to stand up and refuse this insanity.

(hey what about that rumor that the d/l eye test will include an unmentioned retina scan?)