AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said even if Republicans and Democrats eventually agree to expand the wall or barrier along the southern border, the state should not stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars of its own money for helping to secure the border.
“I don’t think we’re ready to step back from that anytime soon. The President is starting on 22 miles of wall in the Rio Grande Valley next month. We need 130 miles to complete from Brownsville to Falcon Lake, which is where over half the people are coming to this country illegally, nearly half, come through that area. So we really need to fence that. The President knows this, we don’t need a fence over 1200 miles of Texas but we need it from Brownsville to Falcon Lake. We need it around Laredo, it’s already in El Paso. One of the reasons El Paso is a safe city is because they’ve had a fence for a number of years,” said Patrick.
Patrick made his comments during a one-on-one interview at his office in the Texas Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
The state spends roughly $800 million on border security during a two year period.
Of that amount, the Lt. Governor said nearly $300 million goes toward paying for an increase in the number of hours state troopers work per shift from eight to ten hours.
“By adding two hours to the work day of our state troopers, it’s the equivalent of putting 600 more troopers on the street in hourly time. The other part is sex trafficking which is an issue in 254 counties. So when you talk about border security, understand that everyone of our counties in Texas, every sheriff’s a border county sheriff, and every state trooper deals with those issues because people, drugs, and other contraband are being smuggled throughout our state.”
Earlier this month, the Lt. Governor went to the White House, where he met with President Trump’s senior advisors, including Jared Kushner, to discuss border security.
Patrick said he offered the administration, as a fallback, for Texas to build the wall for the federal government.
“We’ll bill you for it that. Send us the money and we’ll build it. We have a lot of contractors and entrepreneurs who could get that wall up pretty quickly.”
When asked if the state legislature would need to approve that first, Patrick said, “Not under my plan because we would reimburse the Department of Public Safety because that’s where it’s coming from.”
Patrick said he has not talked with Governor Abbott about the idea.
While border security continues to make headlines, school finance reform remains one of the top issues during the 86th legislative session.
The Lt. Governor disputed reports the Texas Senate and House are $3 billion apart when it comes to paying for public schools.
So far, the Senate has proposed spending $6 billion more for K-12 schools during the 2020-21 biennium than the current biennium.
Patrick said, “I think the House has $7 billion. We’ve already said we’re going to spend another billion. We’re going to spend the same amount of money. They just made a general appropriation. We were a little bit more specific but we’re in the same spot. The Speaker said the same thing, we’re in the same spot.”
Some of that extra money, about $2.3 billion in the Senate bill, would go toward reducing the amount of property taxes that are used to fund education.
State leaders have also said they want to reduce the amount of money that property-rich school districts would have to return to the state under a program called recapture or Robin Hood.
Patrick said about $3.7 billion would be spent on boosting salaries for all of the state’s 350,000 teachers.
“So teachers would get $5,000 more next September and they’d get $5,000 more the following September and in perpetuity. So they’re going to have that $5,000 baked in and then in the future, we want to add to that base – add to that $5,000 base now, we’re also going to put into a program that gives them incentive pay at the local level. I don’t believe the state should create incentive programs for local school districts, that’s up to the superintendents and principals.”
The Lt. Governor said he believes all teachers should get a raise from the state.
“I want to be equitable for everyone and you know, I hear this sometimes, well, every teacher isn’t the same, so why does everyone get the same raise? We gave every Child Protective Services worker a $12,000 raise, we didn’t ask who was the best, who was in the middle, who was the worst, we’ve given law enforcement across the board raises – we didn’t as who was the best, so I don’t know why we would do that to teachers? Teachers have not had a raise in over 20 years.”
Patrick said he believes members of the House will agree. “We’ve made a general principal agreement – we all think teachers should make more money.”
he Lt. Governor also said he remains committed to hardening schools to protect students, and that he supports Governor Abbott’s proposal to slow the growth of property taxes.
It would not allow local governments to increase their spending past 2.5 percent from the year before unless voters approve.
Both the Senate and House must hammer out a budget by late May.
WATCH THE COMPLETE INTERVIEW WITH LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK HERE