Monday, October 27, 2014

If Texas (re)diverts state highway fund to roads, what happens to border security at DPS?

Interesting to see that, while on the gubernatorial campaign trail this year, Greg Abbott pledged to seek diversion of state highway fund monies from the Department of Public Safety to road building. According to a recent endorsement in the Odessa American (Oct. 26):
Abbott also recommends amending the Transportation Code to limit State Highway Fund expenditures to intended transportation purposes and amending the Texas Constitution to dedicate more than two-thirds of vehicle sales taxes to the highway fund. As he puts it, his plan is rooted in transparency for the citizenry of the state, and we couldn’t agree more.
Speaker Joe Straus has suggested a similar stratagem, which makes perfect sense from the standpoint of bolstering flagging road infrastructure but which would dramatically undermine the principle source of  increased revenue to DPS over these last years, particularly the half billion-plus the state has spent on redundant border security.

Anyone who's driven Texas highways recently knows the state needs more investment in transportation ASAP, but if the state highway fund is (re)diverted then the Lege will either have to fund DPS activities from some other source or scale back their budget to make the whole thing balance.

Better roads and Texas' border security boondoggle: In the end, legislators can only pick one to fund unless they deign to raise taxes or siphon from the Rainy Day Fund. Either funding option seems viable but both also seem politically unpalatable in the current environment, which could make debates over spending state highway funds particularly vexing next spring.

MORE: Abbott's statements seem to be boxing him more and more into supporting tax hikes to pay for all he's promised. A Houston Chronicle profile declared that Abbott "[s]upports doubling state spending for the Texas Department of Public Safety to add manpower, technology and tools for added surveillance at the Texas-Mexico border" as well as "funding for additional surge-enforcement operations along the border." You can't do that and also redirect the state highway fund away from DPS and back to highways without additional revenue from somewhere, even if "new taxes" don't appear to be part of the soon-to-be-governor's campaign platform.


Anonymous said...

They will just cut TDCJ and TJJD funding. It's not like these agencies are past being constitutionally sound. The state doesn't care about unconstitutional conditions because they believe they have the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in their back pocket.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

They might have thought that before the 5th Circuit's ruling on Louisiana heat litigation. That could change really soon, though, when the rulings come down on Texas' similar cases.

Besides, they couldn't cut remotely enough at TDCJ to pay for roads. Those numbers run to the many billions very quickly.

Gadfly said...

All of this is more reason to vote NO on Prop. 1:

Anonymous said...

Let's don't spend another nickle on the border!