AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the lawmakers prepare for the 2017 legislature, the Texas Department of Public Safety wants to spend close to $1 billion on border security.
Texas has the lion’s share of the US-Mexico border and for the past several election years voters demand “border security.”
“There’s not enough border patrol agents, there’s not enough National Guard personnel to cover this place 24/7,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw, when he invited us to tour the border with him. He told me the cameras, the new boats and the additional troopers helped them seize hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs and brought crime down in the Rio Grande Valley.
The department just put in their 2017 legislative session budget request and gave a presentation detailing how they want around $300 million more next year, drawing concerns from some. This is in addition to the $800 million lawmakers gave the department for border security in 2015.
“We have really, really big challenges, but we have less and less ability to deal with that,” said Eva DeLuna-Castro from the Center for Public Policy Priorities. She says the new border money would come from the sales tax we all pay. Those millions could be used to beef up areas in need of support, making tuition for public universities cheaper, paying for higher quality public schools or putting more money into the foster care system
“If the costs of that are much much bigger and much more tragic, that’s what legislators have to consider,” said DeLuna-Castro.
They’ll get all the budget requests in this fall and begin to decide what gets money and what doesn’t, beginning in January.
Taking a closer look at what DPS wants, the more than nearly $290 million would pay for 250 additional troopers. That would bring the total number up to 500 troopers on the border. With the money, five thousand additional cameras can be added along the border. DPS also wants to replace six aircraft and more than 1,200 vehicles.
Gov. Abbott’s office confirms his support for 500 troopers on the border, but declined to comment on the rest of the budget request.
A spokesperson for DPS, Tom Vinger, responded for our request for comment with this statement:
At the direction of state leaders, DPS has continued to provide around-the-clock direct support to our Border Patrol partners for more than two years to combat the ruthless Mexican Cartels and their associates at the Texas-Mexico border who are highly motivated by a multi-billion dollar industry to smuggle drugs and people into Texas on a daily basis. In order to keep the pressure on, and to deter, detect and interdict human and drug smuggling along the border, the department will submit (as part of the agency’s required Legislative Appropriations Request) the resource and funding needs to continue fulfilling those directives by our state leaders. We continue to report the activity and impacts of Operation Secure Texas to the Texas Legislature and Texas Leadership, and ultimately, the operation’s success and need for continued or additional resources for border security will be determined by our state leaders.”