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Friday, March 5, 2021

Texas legislators strip last-minute $100 million request for border surge

After a last-minute deal appeared in a stop-gap spending measure this weekend that would have given Gov. Greg Abbott’s office $100 million from the state’s savings account to expand “surge operations” near the Texas-Mexico border, the Texas Legislature on Sunday voted to strip the funding.

In the previous version of the spending plan, Texas lawmakers said they intended for President Donald Trump’s administration to repay the funds, which were authorized in a “supplemental” budget that the Legislature must pass to pay bills coming due.

But the supplemental budget passed by the House and Senate on Sunday afternoon will not include the additional $100 million, after state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, offered a set of “technical corrections” that passed the upper chamber unanimously.

State Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and the House’s chief budget writer, explained the decision Sunday evening before the chamber voted 147-1 in favor of it, saying the $100 million was “a bit redundant.”

“We [already] have about an $800 million border security portfolio of things that we’re funding,” he said, adding that the decision had the blessing of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Abbott.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, was the lone vote against the decision to strip the funding.

The Legislature authorized a large-scale deployment of state troopers stationed in counties along the Texas-Mexico border in 2015 at a cost of about $800 million for the two-year budget cycle — then appropriated roughly the same amount in 2017 to continue it.

Critics have questioned the purpose and effectiveness of the effort, but the Legislature has continued to replenish funding for it.

The proposed $100 million infusion for border security operations would have expanded the effort, but the appropriation didn’t include specifics on how the money would have been spent.

Democrats have asked state agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, to produce statistics in an effort to investigate whether the massive border surge has worked. But a proposed amendment to the state’s two-year spending plan that would have mandated a study of the border spending’s effectiveness failed earlier in the legislative session.

“Texas legislators strip last-minute $100 million request for border surge” was first published at by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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