High Price Tag Of Texas Border Security Plan Draws Scrutiny
AUSTIN — Calls for an unprecedented Texas border security spending spree to buy spy planes, 500 more state troopers and a 10-acre training base near Mexico came under heavy bipartisan scrutiny Monday in a show of frustration with a priority of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Tense questioning by powerful Senate budget writers, however, fell short of resistance toward doubling border security funding to more than $815 million over the next two years — or opposition to what Abbott has made a defining issue in the early stages of his administration.
But Democrats and some Republicans are revealing irritation with a skyrocketing tab and a sense that nearly $1 billion already spent on the Texas-Mexico border since 2008 has lacked accountability. State leaders and the Department of Public Safety have claimed success when apprehensions both rise and fall and without ever defining the long-stated goal of a secure border.
Border security was a major issue among GOP voters last year, but some Republicans want better metrics attached to more money. “I don’t care what it polls,” Republican state Sen. Kevin Eltife said. “Christmas polls well in my house, but I make sure what I spend is in my budget.”
Arguably no spending in the proposed $205 billion Senate budget is more eye-popping than the hike in border security funding. The money would indefinitely extend the mission of the Texas National Guard on the border, boost manpower and give $500 monthly stipends to troopers stationed in the Rio Grande Valley.
DPS Director Steve McCraw told the Senate Finance Committee that replacing the Guard with troopers would put the state on a path toward declaring the border secure and emphasized the impact of high-tech cameras and $5 million surveillance planes.
“When you own the night, and you operate in the air, you can’t escape. There is no way,” McCraw said.
Abbott has said that National Guard troops will remain on the border until enough state troopers are hired to replace them. The state last week announced it would offer fast-tracker training to veteran Texas police officers who want to become troopers. (AP)