The strain of tight budgets and related deferred facility maintenance is showing up in places where state employees are expected to do their jobs, and some legislators want to fix those problems in the next two-year budget.
Their call to action is worth hearing.
The Texas Tribune has reported on some of the issues, saying the price tag could reach almost $1 billion “assuming the work begins now.”
The “poster child” for deferred maintenance is the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin.
Fire safety issues forced the Texas Facilities Commission to set up 24-hour patrols after the fire alarm system stopped working on parts of the campus. One building is infested with rats, and raccoon, squirrel and possum carcasses were found in the crawlspace beneath the floor.
A December 2014 report cited electrical failures, collapsed sewer lines, deteriorating roofs and asbestos-laden floor tiles. One building has “a bat problem.”
Other agencies also cite problems, the Tribune reported.
The Department of State Health Services has requested $186 million for facility needs in state mental health hospitals, including $84 million to fix “life-safety issues.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, perennially shortchanged on park maintenance funding, says it needs $75 million to take care of its worst building repair problems.
Some complaints come from newly elected statewide officials who have been surprised by conditions at their new workplaces.
Comptroller Glenn Hegar, whose office is in the Lyndon B. Johnson building two blocks from the Capitol, told the Tribune about a hole in a bathroom wall that’s been patched with toilet paper.
The building has bats, and one employee had to get rabies shots after coming into contact with one.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose offices also are near the Capitol, has testified about leaking roofs and elevators that don’t work.
Conservative as the Texas Legislature is, there are lawmakers in both parties who say recent talk of tax cuts is out of place until basic problems like these are fixed.
It’s a good point.