Texas bill renews call to feds for border security costs
By Richard Lee
Texas Senate News
A STATE senator wants the federal government to refund $1.6 billion being spent by Texas over four years in the fight to stop illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.
The senate finance committee on Monday took up a bill that its author says will help the state understand the true cost in state funds of illegal immigration in Texas. Although the federal government is responsible for maintaining border security, its failure to secure the border is costing Texans millions, says Dallas senator Don Huffines.
The state legislature approved $800 million to pay for more troopers and more resources for border security during its 2015 session and the senate version of the new budget includes
the same amount for the upcoming biennium.
Huffines claims his senate bill 764 will help the state’s argument that Washington should pay Texas back for the costs.
He said: “When the federal government fails to protect the border, then the federal government should reimburse the state for its expenditures.
“With this cost accounting, Texas can better explain to the federal government the severity of the consequences of its failure of its responsibilities.”
If passed into law, Huffines’ bill would require state public-accounts comptroller Glen Hagar to tally and release each biennium the total cost to the state incurred by people not lawfully present in the USA. It would also require that the report break out the specific costs for their health care, education and incarceration.
Some senators opposed to the measure asked why the bill doesn’t include the benefits of undocumented immigrants to the state, citing labor and sales-tax revenue as examples.
Juan Hinojosa of McAllen said: “You want a clear, concise picture, you need to look at the whole aspect of people who are in this state undocumented. Not only what it costs, but what they provide in terms of benefits to the economy.”
The bill passed the committee on a vote of 8-4 and will now go to the full senate for consideration.
• ALSO IN Austin on Monday, the legislature’s state budget conference committee, which is comprised of five members from each chamber, held its first hearing, tasked with reconciling the chambers’ differing proposals for the biennial budget.
They are relatively close in amount – the senate would spend $217.7 billion in state and federal funds over the next two years, slightly less than the $218.1 billion proposed by the house of representatives.
There are differences in where the money would go, however, and the conference committee has until Memorial Day to present a compromise for approval by both chambers.
Representing the senate on the committee are finance-committee chair Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, her vice-chair, Hinojosa, and Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, Joan Huffman of Houston and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown.
Before the committee began deliberating, Nelson pointed out that eight of its 10 members served on the committee in the 84th session, saying: “You have a very strong, experienced team.
“I am confident, members, that we can come to an agreement that will make Texas proud.”