Throughout the month of August, The Texas Tribune is featuring 31 ways Texans' lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature — including the dramatically reduced budget — take effect. Check out our story calendar here.
Day 30: During a legislative session where hardly any services were spared the budget ax, funding for border security actually increased.
Despite major cuts across most state services, from education to health care, lawmakers increased funding for border security in the next biennium by tens of millions of dollars.
The biennial budget for border security nearly doubled, from $111 million to $219.5 million.
Border security and the debate over whether Texas is home to spillover violence is a big concern for state leaders. And it's an increasingly hot topic as Gov. Rick Perry launches his presidential campaign. Perry has long said the federal government hasn't lived up to its financial obligations on the border, forcing the state to foot the bill.
“The people [in Mexico] are defenseless, and the corruption is just so great that if Mexico were to collapse we would have a major problem along the border,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, the vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told the Tribune recently. “So far the majority of violence has been limited to that side of the border. But part of the reason is that on this side of the border we are prepared. And we have to be prepared.”
Among the border security line items for the next biennium, lawmakers have set aside nearly $40 million to the Department of Public Safety for general border security — funding that goes toward salaries, costs, training and equipment for the Texas Highway Patrol, criminal investigations, the Texas Rangers and aircraft operations.
Local border security was allotted nearly $50 million over the next biennium, money earmarked specifically for Texas DPS officers along the border, additional Texas Rangers personnel, the Border Operations Center — a central clearinghouse for information related to crimes on the border — and Joint Operations and Intelligence Centers. The JOIC are composed of local, state and federal law enforcement that work together on border security initiatives. That funding also includes overtime and increased investigation and patrols for DPS, Texas Parks and Wildlife peace officers and local law enforcement.
This funding comes with some expectations from Perry, budget writers and the DPS: at least 1,500 arrests for narcotics violations each year, 25 interagency law enforcement operations in the border region each year, 1175 arrests for motor vehicle theft statewide in 2012-13, 1,050 arrests per year for “offenses other than narcotics or vehicle theft,” and at least 2,400 arrests per year by the Texas Rangers.
The agency also sets its goals for “traffic law violator contacts” at 3.4 million each year, and expects officers to patrol Texas at least 1.4 million hours each year.
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