Sunday, November 23, 2014

Of budgets and border boondoggles: A reality check

The Austin Statesman has a good article (Nov. 22) on the impact of constant border deployments for game wardens, starting with a 19 percent drop in citations written in other parts of the state, as evidenced in the graphic below.

But even more than the lamentable if predictable impact of diverting focus from game wardens' traditional duties to a politicized snipe hunt, this tidbit stood out at me: "Gov.-elect Gregg Abbott said in February that he wants to nearly double state spending on the border, suggesting a 'continuous surge' with 1,000 new officers on the ground."

Not to beat a dead horse, but how does the state 1) double the billion-dollar border surge, 2) shift highway money from DPS to roads, 3) constitutionally index spending increases to inflation and population growth, and 4) cut taxes? Those can't all happen. Something's got to give.

Math trumps ideology when it comes to appropriations, if not in elections. It's fine for politicians to say such foolishness on the campaign stump but the budget has to balance or they don't get to do it all. Governing involves choices and today's generation of Texas Republicans are no longer back-benchers throwing Molotov cocktails at Bob Bullock and Pete Laney's agenda. They're in charge and governing a state with 25 million people and a balanced budget mandated in the state constitution. Moreover, since 2003 the state has already gone through several sessions involving major budget cuts that more or less stripped state government down to the bone, save for this Big Government border-security misadventure.

Grits has hoped throughout the fall that Texas' leaders would begin to walk back some of these oddly contradictory positions once the campaign season ended, but not so far. Eventually, reality will impose itself in the budgeting process whether or not it's able to penetrate state leaders' political rhetoric. But it'd be better for everyone if that happened before the eleventh hour next May.


Anonymous said...

That article says it all. My local game warden's fuel budget was cut to $200 a month. His area covers almost a thousand square miles with three large lakes, a state park, state forest land, two large national forest, and one of biggest poaching problems in the state.

With the surge on the border, the cartels are now growing marijuana in the large forest areas of East Texas. Several large marijuana growing operations have been discovered. Even worst East Texas meth problems have increased since the border surge.

The Governor's office needs to stop trying to shape the direction of law enforcement and criminal justice. This is an area that is best left to the experts. The Governor's budgeting office has messed up our prison system by bullying their way with the budget and is playing political theater with the border surge. The only agency who has benefitted with a large increased in funds out if the Article V budget is TxDPS.

These failed border surge policies have adversely impacted East Texas by shifting more narco crime to the area and poverty wages to an area that houses a large portion of the state's prisons.

I can see a future revolt in East Texas against the Republican Party if Greg Abbotts office carries on this failed policy. This area used to be one of the strongest Democratic areas of Texas.

Anonymous said...

"border-security misadventure."

That's what it is-a misadventure. It's counter-productive.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that TPWD generally have few, if any, Game Warden vacancies while DPS routinely maintains 300 to 500 commissioned officer vacancies. Hiring an additional 1000 officers for either agency or split between both would be difficult or impossible for the DPS side of the fence. Hiring hundreds of additional officers then requires more patrol trucks/cars, weapons, salaries, etc...

Part of the $86m is to use existing officers to compell them to work 50hr work (currently 40hr) weeks to maintain coverage on the homefront while also supplying personnel for the border. This would be needed to expand coverage from the current coverage to the entire Texas/Mexico border.

While I believe the federal government could do more; Game Wardens and DPS continue to be political chess pieces when they once were not. Like it or not, those political chess pieces cost money and apparently voters approve by continuing to elect those pushing for border security.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know is any illegals have been arrested by DPS or the wardens? In other words, what is/was the cost per arrest? They aren't a deterrent so it's arrests or nothing to "measure productivity".

Anonymous said...

Nobody, but NOBODY, has the ability and legal authority to determine who is an "illegal alien" except a federal ICE or CBP Agent. DPS can arrest dark-skinned little people all day long and throw them in jail, but at the end of the day they must go to federal Immigration facility after they get released from state charges. Why? so they can be released by the Feds? This Border surge is a big joke. The only bigger joke is sending soldiers from the Texas National Guard down there. An even bigger joke is the National Guard Counter Drug boondoggle.