Budget increases state funding for border security
Gov. Rick Perry frequently accuses the federal government of doing too little to keep the U.S.-Mexico border area safe while also touting the state's security efforts.
During his 2010 re-election campaign, Perry issued a press release saying that "until the federal government brings the necessary resources to bear, we will continue to commit state funding and resources for additional border security efforts in order to protect our communities and legitimate cross border trade and travel, while enforcing the laws already on the books."
During this year's legislative session, the state faced a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall, and key areas such as public and higher education saw their funding cut in 2012-13. Did border security programs suffer?
In his Feb. 8 state of the state address, Perry said the state should continue "our investment in border security because the threat of cross-border violence has only grown as the drug wars escalate."
The Legislative Budget Board, which advises lawmakers on budgetary matters, says border security funding was nearly doubled in the 2012-13 budget that Perry signed into law. The board's budget summary report says lawmakers provided $219.5 million for border security efforts, including state and local operations and overtime pay for law enforcement officers, compared with the 2010-11 spending level of $111 million.
John Barton, a board spokesman, told us that about 95 percent of the border security funds will flow to the Texas Department of Public Safety, with the remainder going to the governor's office and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Perry's office gave us different numbers, although they also show a funding increase. Spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told us that for 2012-13, border security funding was increased about $40 million, based on calculations done by the lieutenant governor's office and the Senate Finance Committee. She said that unlike the current biennium, the money for border security will flow directly to DPS, rather than passing through the governor's office.
Frazier also told us that the governor's office will receive about $4 million for a program that helps border counties hire prosecutors to focus exclusively on border crime cases. That money is not included in the governor's office figure for 2012-13 border security funding while it is in the budget board's.
Other discrepancies between the governor's and the budget board's numbers may have occurred because of the different ways spending is categorized, Frazier said.
Over at DPS, spokesman Tom Vinger told us that the department's border security funding — which pays for, among other costs, operations and overtime for state and local law enforcement officers, surveillance aircraft, and technology to expand intelligence centers — will increase by about $70 million in the next biennium.
Tom Harvey, a spokesman for Parks and Wildlife, said the agency's two-year border security funding of $3.8 million, which pays for 15 game warden positions, wasn't increased in the 2012-13 budget. However, he said, a budget-related bill that is currently on the governor's desk spends about $910,000 for two boats, one to patrol the Rio Grande and another Falcon Lake, a reservoir on the river that has been the site of drug cartel smuggling and violence.
This is a Kept promise.
Gov. Rick Perry, state of the state speech, Feb. 8, 2011
Legislative Budget Board, "Summary of Conference Committee Report on House Bill 1," May 2011
Interview with John Barton, spokesman, Legislative Budget Board, June 30, 2011
Email (excerpt) from Catherine Frazier, deputy press secretary, governor's office, June 29, 2011
Interview with Catherine Frazier, deputy press secretary, governor's office, July 6, 2011
Email (excerpt) from Tom Vinger, assistant chief of media relations, Texas Department of Public Safety, June 30, 2011
Email (excerpt) from Tom Harvey, spokesman, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, June 30, 2011