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Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter State Capitol E-Report
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January 30, 2013:

  • Initial House and Senate Budgets Shortchange Parks, Clean Air and Weatherization

    The proposed 2014-2015 budgets in the Texas Senate and House continue to shortchange key environmental programs despite a healthier economy, significantly more revenue, and an Economic Stabilization (aka the Rainy Day) fund that will approach $12 billion by the end of 2015.

    The proposed House budget (HB 1) allocates $187.7 billion for the 2014-15 budget; the Senate version (SB 1) $186.8 billion. These figures are below those allocated by the Texas legislature in 2012-2013, and about $5.5 billion less than the Comptroller of Public Accounts indicated would be available for the Legislature to appropriate this session.

    In releasing their proposals, Chairmen Tommy Williams in the Senate and Jim Pitts in the House stressed it was the beginning of the process and not the end, but called for fiscal restraint.

    Most of the funding for natural resources programs in Texas are contained in Article VI of the appropriations bills and flow through the following state agencies: the Railroad Commission, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Texas Water Development Board and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. These agencies were among the hardest hit in the initial budgets. As introduced, Senate Bill 1 would CUT funding for these agencies by some $370 million, or 7.5 %. House Bill 1 cuts these agencies by some 6.9%. The cuts are alarming because the budgets for these agencies were slashed in 2011.

    General Revenue (GR)-Dedicated Fees continue to be raided in the initial budgets

    Despite calls from Chairman Williams, House Speaker Strauss, Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Governor Perry to exercise truth in budgeting and spend fees generated for their intended purpose, the initial budgets fail to allocate all GR-dedicated fees for their intended purposes. It should be noted that several bills have been filed to address this issue, including bills filed by Senator Craig Estes (SB 175/SJR 17) and Rep. Lyle Larson (HB 162/HJR 40) to specifically dedicate the sporting goods tax to state parks operations.

    The following chart is from House Bill 1, as introduced:

    Under HB 1, TCEQ’s air quality grants available under the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) – intended to clean up old diesel equipment in Texas’ major urban areas – would be able to spend less than half of the amount generated by fees – roughly $65 million per year -- despite expected tougher EPA rules in 2014 that will likely increase the number of areas designated non-attainment of air quality standards (San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Tyler-Longview).

    Similarly, both HB 1 and SB 1 would shortchange the Drive a Clean Machine program designed to help working Texans clean up their cars or purchase newer ones to meet emissions standards. The programs would continue to be funded at about $6 million per year, despite auto emission inspection fees that raise nearly $40 million per year.

    Some Increases
    Some programs saw increases in the proposed budgets. For example, the low-income discount program to help working Texans lower their electric bills was increased from $152 to $228 million through the Systems Benefit Fee. Unfortunately, neither bill would provide ANY proceeds from the fee for customer education or weatherization programs, both authorized uses of the 65 cents per megawatt hour ALL electric customers living in competitive areas of the state must pay.

    “While progress has been made in a few areas in the budgets proposed by the Senate and House, overall these bills seriously underfund key agency functions at TCEQ, the Railroad Commission, the Water Development Board and Texas Parks and Wildlife,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Programs Texans are forced to pay fees for, like TERP, the Drive A Clean Machine Program, weatherization programs through the Systems Benefit Fee, wildlife protection programs and the operation and maintenance of state parks continue to be seriously underfunded.”

    Sierra Club staff, volunteers and members will work to increase funding in the final budget for parks, wildlife, water conservation education, weatherization, oversight of the oil and gas industry and clean air programs. Sierra Club representatives will be testifying before the Senate Finance committee on Wednesday, February 6th. You can help these efforts by contacting your state senator and representive TODAY to underscore the importance of these programs and your support that dedicated fees to fund them be appropriated for that purpose.

    Natural Resource Budgets among the hardest hit

    Article VI Agencies – the Railroad Commission, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Texas Water Development Board and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – were among the hardest hit in the initial budgets. The Senate's proposed budget would CUT funding for these agencies by some $370 million, or 7.5 %. The House cuts these agencies by some 6.9%. The cuts concern us because many programs and agencies were slashed in 2011.

    General Revenue (GR)-Dedicated Fees continue to be raided in the initial budgets

    Despite calls from Senator Williams, Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Governor Perry to exercise truth in budgeting and spend fees generated for their intended purpose, the initial budget fails to allocate all GR-dedicated fees for their intended purposes. It should be noted that Senator Craig Estes and Rep. Lyle Larson filed legislation to specifically dedicate the sporting goods tax for state parks operation.

    Under the proposed budget, TCEQ’s air quality grants available under the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) – intended to clean up old diesel equipment in Texas’ major urban areas – would be able to spend less than half of the amount generated by fees – roughly $65 million per year.

    Similarly, the proposed budget shortchanges the Drive a Clean Machine program, designed to help working Texans clean up their cars or purchase newer ones to meet emissions standards. The programs would continue to be funded at about $6 million per year, despite car emission inspection fees that raise nearly $40 million per year.

    Some Increases

    Some programs saw increases in the proposed budget. For example, the low-income discount program to help working Texans lower their electric bills was increased from $152 to $228 million through the Systems Benefit Fee. There was NO funding provided from the fee for customer education or weatherization, both authorized uses of the 65 cents per megawatt hour paid by electric users in the competitive areas of the state.

    “While progress has been made in a few areas in the budgets proposed by the Senate and House, overall this budget seriously underfunds key agency functions at TCEQ, the Railroad Commission, the Water Development Board and Texas Parks and Wildlife,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Programs we pay fees for, like TERP, the Drive A Clean Machine Program, weatherization dollars through the Systems Benefit Fee and operation of Parks and Wildlife continue to be underfunded.”

    Sierra Club staff, volunteers and members will work to increase funding in the final budget for parks, wildlife, water conservation education, weatherization, oversight of the oil and gas industry and clean air programs. Sierra Club representatives will be testifying before the Senate Finance committee on Wednesday, February 6th. You can help by calling your state senator and
    representive TODAY to underscore the importance of these programs and your support that
    dedicated fees to fund them be appropriated for that purpose.


  • Texas Sierra Club Legislative Priorities for 2013 Session
    Clean Energy Solutions – expansion of requirements and incentives for achieving higher levels of energy efficiency and increased reliance on renewable energy sources (especially solar power) in a manner that addresses climate change concerns, assists low-income utility customers, meets true needs for electric power generation, and promotes the development of new jobs and economic opportunities for Texans ...Read the full story
  • Meet the Legislative Lobby Team:
    This is an exciting time for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club – and a challenging one as well! With the combined strength of new leadership and seasoned experience among the Lone Star Chapter’s environmental advocates in Austin, we have our strongest state legislative lobby corps ever. ...Read the full story


  • Water: Meeting Critical Need
    Texas faces challenges in meeting water supply needs, protecting our state’s natural heritage and maintaining the jobs and businesses dependent upon our fish and wildlife resources. ...Read the full story

  • State Capitol E-Report is a monthly electronic update from the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club reporting on Texas environmental policy issues of statewide interest. Contact us or unsubscribe at: lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org
    ...Header photo Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) copyright Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

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