What does $1.3 million per week buy Texas taxpayers in border security?

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 7:26 PM

DALLAS -– No one disputes something needs to be done about the growing crisis of undocumented immigrants coming into Texas, but it’s uncertain exactly what the Department of Public Safety’s so-called "surge funds" are buying Texas taxpayers.

On June 18, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus agreed to give the Texas Department of Public Safety an additional $1.3 million per week to start a surge. But DPS would not reveal what it’s spending the money on, and unlike other agencies, the state refused to let reporters see the DPS operation.

Perry’s office did not return a message about the surge. Dewhurst’s office referred questions back to DPS. But Straus said the House would soon begin oversight hearings on the security investment.

Texas deployed gunboats two years ago, DPS has a high-tech helicopter stationed outside McAllen, and DPS troopers have been combating the cartels and assisting federal and local law enforcement operations. The legislature even increased the DPS budget for border security this year by 55 percent.

But the surge represents even more of a financial commitment to border security that the federal government can’t seem to get under control.

In an interview to air Sunday morning on WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics, Abbott revealed what DPS would not.

"Most of it is for personnel resources - boots on the ground - it's the additional officers who will be here to create that surge," Abbott said. "Part of it will be for that increased cost -- more helicopters, more planes, more boats."

But Speaker Joe Straus has called for the House Appropriations Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee to provide oversight on the new expenditure. Straus insisted to House members that the extra $1.3 million weekly through the end of 2014 is not going to be a blank check.

"This is important. We are a border state. Things are very fluid down there," said State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) on Inside Texas Politics. "But I think we also need to be transparent. There are no secrets here."

The more money spent trying to secure the Texas border, the worse the problem seems to get.

"It's growing even more rapidly over the past few days,” Abbott said. “In the month of May, there were more than a 1,000 apprehensions per day. Two days ago, that spiked up to 1,500 in just one day."

Abbott blames President Obama and the federal government for the uncontrollable situation. Congress has refused to undertake immigration reform, and it does not look likely before the 2016 elections.

The House Homeland Security Committee meets Tuesday morning in Austin and DPS Director Steve McCraw will testify and take questions from lawmakers.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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