Editorials

Tell President Trump that Texas wants $1.1 billion

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Texas Department of Safety troopers patrol the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border in search of immigrants crossing illegally.
Texas Department of Safety troopers patrol the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border in search of immigrants crossing illegally. AP

Donald Trump’s presidency, having declared securing the border as one of his top three priorities, should provide an immediate $1.1 billion bonanza for Texas.

That’s how much the state should not have to spend on its long-running surge of law enforcement personnel along the border — or what a Trump administration should reimburse the state for spending.

As Texas Republican leaders spent years telling President Barack Obama, sealing the border is the federal government’s responsibility.

Former Gov. Rick Perry started the border surge in 2014 in response to a flood of Central American immigrants crossing the border illegally. Perry tried to get Obama to reimburse Texas.

In 2015, the Legislature gave Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw $800 million to hire 250 additional DPS troopers for border security efforts.

This summer, DPS said it will ask for an additional $300 million next year to keep the border operations going and hire still more troopers.

If McCraw says the total $1.1 billion is what’s needed, Texas should demand it from Trump — just like Perry did with Obama.

That $1.1 billion would go a long way in the budget that state lawmakers will compile in their 140-day regular session beginning Jan. 10.

The decline in oil and gas prices, a consequent fall in state revenue from that industry and a related economic slowdown mean the next budget will be hurting for revenue. The biggest question is how much.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced in September that sales tax revenue during the state’s 2016 fiscal year was down 3.5 percent, exactly $1.1 billion.

Unlike the federal government, Texas can’t spend beyond its means. The Legislature’s budget must balance, and spending demands are high.

A special panel from the Senate Finance Committee says the state’s foster care crisis requires an immediate emergency allocation of $75.3 million.

Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman has asked for almost $500 million more in special appropriations next year.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said a needed overhaul of public school finance is “a very complex, multibillion-dollar issue.”

Texas has many more needs. Every one is a good reason for Trump to lift the border security burden off the backs of Texas taxpayers.

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