Has the Juice Been Worth Squeezing on State Border Security Funding?

One year into Operation Lone Star and many Texans are asking questions about the overall efficacy of the state’s current strategy in addressing the ongoing border security crisis.

Ultimately, the federal government has the responsibility of enforcing immigration laws. Texas shares a nearly 1,200-mile border with Mexico and recently, took unprecedented steps to bolster the border and preclude illegal crossings all on its own in the wake of the federal government doing near nothing to address it.

Despite this, illegal border crossings continue to rise at an alarming rate leaving many to ask whether the juice has been worth the squeeze and whether the strategy should be changed?

The short answer is… it’s complicated.

Most Recent Legislative Session

In the 87th legislative session, the legislature appropriated over $1 billion to border security operations. In September of 2021, during the second called special legislative session, the legislature passed House Bill 9, which among other things allocated a near additional $2 billion to border security over the course of two years, making the total state appropriations for the effort almost $3 billion, the most that have ever been appropriated for such purposes in Texas.

What’s more, is that the legislation included almost three-quarters of a billion dollars to continue construction on the border wall started under the Trump Administration. The Office of the Governor also set up a crowd-funding website which to date has reportedly raised over $55 million.

Operation Lone Star

 In the midst of having already received primary election challengers and the 87th legislative session, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced an unprecedented border security effort called ‘Operation Lone Star’ (OLS) in March of 2021.

OLS is a border security initiative purportedly aimed at curtailing an exponential rise in illegal border crossings taking place under the watch of the Biden Administration. Neither Texas National Guard service members nor the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) can enforce federal immigration laws. Instead, Abbott increased the penalties for trespassing under a disaster declaration administered in 2021 and in turn, directed DPS troopers to arrest the migrants for trespassing on private property.

At its launch, only 500 Texas National Guard service members were sent as a part of OLS. House Bill 9 provided the appropriations for an additional 1,800 service members whereupon its passage, Abbott directed 1,000 personnel from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and 400 additional Texas National Guard members to join in on the effort. In November 2021, OLS saw a large surge of personnel from both the Texas Army National Guard and DPS, bolstering the number to 10,000.

In January of this year, state appropriators moved nearly $500 million from money previously appropriated to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), and DPS to address the increase in the cost of additional personnel on OLS.

National Guard service members participating in OLS are tasked with helping in the arrests process of miscellaneous border-related crimes which include both human and drug smuggling.

According to an analysis done by the Texas Tribune, ProPublica, and The Marshall Project, OLS costs Texas taxpayers $2.5 million every week.

In recent months, reports have surfaced that OLS has been mired with issues ranging from lack of pay for the National Guard service members participating to suicides potentially linked to the work or lack thereof being conducted on the mission itself, with many suffering from low morale.

In mid-March, Abbott replaced the commander of the Texas Military Forces, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris in the wake of growing criticism of her leadership and aforementioned issues.

A Shroud Around the Results

According to a press release by Abbott,

“Since the launch of OLS, multi-agency efforts have led to more than 208,000 migrant apprehensions, along with more than 11,800 charges for criminal offenses— including more than 9,300 felony charges. Members of notorious gangs like the Texas Chicano Brotherhood, Bloods, Mexican Mafia, MS-13, and others have been taken off the streets. DPS has arrested sex offenders, weapons traffickers, previously convicted and deported criminal immigrants, drug dealers, and other wanted criminals. In the fight against fentanyl, DPS has seized over 269 million lethal doses throughout the state.”

Of the many concerns raised in the aforementioned analysis, one is that the “state’s claim of success has been based on shifting metrics that included crimes with no connection to the border, work conducted by troopers stationed in targeted counties prior to the operation, and arrest and drug seizure efforts that do not clearly distinguish DPS’s role from that of other agencies.”

The analysis goes on to say, “A year into the initiative, Abbott, DPS, and the Texas Military Department have fought two dozen public records requests from the news organizations that would provide a clearer picture of the operation’s accomplishments.”

Recently, a growing number of Texas elected officials and candidates for office have voiced their concerns with the ongoing strategy to address illegal border activity. A few include:

Republican State Rep. Matt Schaefer (Tyler) took to Twitter recently to share his concerns.

Democrat gubernatorial challenger to Abbott, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke told the Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board,

“This is how an opportunistic politician panders for votes while spending billions in tax dollars and misleading the public about the return on investment. The lack of transparency and political posturing should trouble all Texans, as Abbott’s border operations will cost taxpayers $3 billion through 2023.”

At a hearing by the State Senate Committee on Border Security on March 8, Republican State Sen. Bob Hall (Edgewood) asked DPS Chief Col. Steve McCraw, “How do we know whether the amount of money was appropriate for what was needed?” Hall continued, “How do we know when we have accomplished what we set out to do… other than just appropriate more money and then wonder what to do next?”

Lack of Attention by Federal Government

Monday, Republican State Rep. Matt Krause (Haslet), Chairman of the House Committee on General Investigating, requested a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on “whether the federal government has failed to uphold its obligations to protect Texans from invasion under Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution and whether Texas has the sovereign power to defend itself from invasion.”

Reportedly, the Biden Administration is contemplating ending the process known as ‘Title 42’ in May of this year, which allows the U.S. to quickly deport illegal immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lawmakers grow increasingly concerned that this would spurn an additional flood of immigrants across the border.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 164,973 migrant encounters on the Southwest border in February, which was a 7% increase over January.

Meanwhile, the Border Patrol Union indicated that March was the worst March in its history,

Ultimately, time will tell whether the unprecedented billions of dollars spent by the state has been fruitful or whether a shift in strategy is necessary both for the purposes of actually turning the tide on illegal immigration and saving taxpayer money along the way.

Fighting Woke Corporatism

It’s difficult to be a conservative in today’s society and not notice the clear bias held by many large corporations that have injected themselves into the political realm. These entities almost always lean left and have aided in silencing and canceling conservative voices for the last few years. This begs the question of whether or not they have the right to do this in a free society? The typical response is that private corporations should have the freedom to do whatever they want with their company and have no obligation to protect free speech.

On the surface, it does seem like a conservative argument… how many of us remember when private bakers were forced to bake cakes for gay couples contrary to their religious beliefs? Conservatives would certainly argue that private businesses should be able to operate however they want according to their values, whatever those values are. So why then do we find conservatives up in arms when companies like Twitter and Meta (Facebook) choose to enforce cancelation policies that are in accordance with leftist ideology?

Many conservatives would respond that these corporations have become so large that they are now a “public square” and they have the obligation to protect free speech in accordance with the first amendment. This argument is problematic because it is not legally consistent with the definition of the personhood of corporations and how that applies to their free speech rights.

There is a much better and more consistent argument that conservatives should be making in this debate.

The vast majority of these mega tech corporations receive millions of dollars in corporate welfare from taxpayers nationwide. In essence, these companies are not private at all, they are government subsidized and are publically funded with your tax dollars.  Google for instance has received $632,000,000 in subsidies from states like Oregon, North Carolina, and others. 

Would it surprise you to know that Facebook has received $148,000,000 in subsidies from Texas alone?  This occurred despite Governor Abbott publically touting bills that would supposedly stop companies like Facebook and Twitter from banning conservative speech from their platform. If legislation is needed to solve this problem of free speech, why would we not first cut all forms of tax rebates and subsidies from Texas to these large leftist organizations? It seems like a practical solution to incentivize fairness in the market. The biggest issue with “woke” corporatism is that these companies are funded through tax abatements with tax dollars from conservatives like you.

Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” If this is true for things like taxpayer-funded lobbying and property taxes, it is also true for corporate subsidy programs (like the Texas Enterprise Fund), especially if those subsidies are being used to push ideologies, ban political speech, and fund political candidates.

In a purely capitalist society, companies should have the right to do as they please with their profits and operate their platforms in whatever way they would like. The reality is we are very far removed from any semblance of pure capitalism and our economy has been far more socialist than most of us would like to admit.

It is beyond time that conservatives start making consistent arguments regarding these “woke corporations” which actively work to stifle conservative values using their own tax dollars. It is time to end all corporate welfare in Texas and to stop allowing our government to pick winners and losers. Let conservatives vote with our wallets instead of bureaucrats voting with our tax dollars.

Creighton to Chair Consolidated Senate Education Committee

Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his intention to make the current Senate Committee on Higher Education a sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Education in the upcoming 88th legislative session.

In preparation for such a thing and in response to current members of the State Senate not seeking reelection, Patrick appointed State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) to be the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Creighton had previously served as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education. He has a career rating of a B+ on the Fiscal Responsibility Index and was first elected to the State Senate in 2014, having previously served in the House of Representatives since 2007.

This decision likely has implications for legislative efforts related to school choice, college professor tenure, and both public school and higher education social studies curricula in the coming legislative session. All of these issues have recently been highlighted as priorities of Patrick.

Creighton has historically supported legislative efforts for school choice. He also authored unsuccessful legislation in the 87th legislative session that would have changed the requirements for comprehensive performance evaluations of tenured college faculty to 4 years from 6 years. He also previously authored similar legislation to another which ultimately passed instead, addressing social studies curriculum in public schools in efforts to thwart the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

In making the change, Patrick said,

“Now more than ever, we must examine education needs as a continuum, from the earliest grades through post-secondary education. The vast majority of jobs in Texas require students to continue their education beyond high school and there should be a seamless path throughout the educational experience.”

Creighton responded to news of his appointment by saying,

“I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Patrick for this appointment and I look forward to the great work ahead as we expand opportunity and value for millions of students in Texas schools.  The joining of these two committees has far-reaching impact, as they make up 53% of general revenue in the budget, but more importantly, will chart a path forward for a robust, strong and diverse 21st century economy.”

The Senate Committee on Education had previously been chaired by outgoing State Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) since the 84th legislative session in 2015. Taylor, who has a career rating of a B- on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, was first elected in 2009.

Significant Portion of the State Budget

Education spending makes up over half of the whole Texas Biennial State Budget.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to a significant increase in parents finding other educational options for their children for reasons of dissatisfaction with the quality of the curriculum, it is unclear whether the response by state appropriators will be to appropriate additional funds to public education, in spite of a decline in enrollment.

Creighton will now be overseeing the committee whose jurisdiction spans how that money is allocated in different respects as well as legislation directing a litany of educational priorities for both K-12 public education and higher education.

A Renewed Effort for School Choice

In January, Patrick reaffirmed his public support for school choice,

“The governors in, and I’m in. What’s the problem with the third arm of the Legislature? When the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker are all on the same page, it gets done…. It’s a new day. We have a new speaker. Let’s see what happens.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also gave a similar nod to school choice efforts in January saying,

“This upcoming session… you’re going to see a stronger, swifter, more powerful movement advocating school choice than you’ve ever seen in the history of the state of Texas.”

Patrick highlights what he deems as the problem with school choice efforts in the past, being that of the House of Representatives. In 2017, both Patrick and Abbott supported school choice legislation that would have created tax-credit scholarships and education savings accounts. That legislation passed the Senate but was never considered in the House of Representatives. Similarly, tax credit scholarship legislation passed the Senate in 2015 but also failed to get a hearing in the House of Representatives. Notably, the House Speaker during that time was State Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio).

In 2019, State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Lake Jackson) was the House Speaker. Under his leadership, no school choice legislation was considered by the House of Representatives.

In 2021, the House elected the current Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont). Under his leadership, the only vote in the House on the issue of School Choice was on a budget amendment authored by Democrat State Rep. Abel Herrero (Robstown) which stipulated that money appropriated in the budget “may not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, education savings account, or tax-credit scholarship program or a similar program through which a child may use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education.” The amendment was successful and passed by a vote of 115 in favor to only 29 in opposition. Over half of the House Republican Caucus voted against school choice in spite of the issue being a long-time legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas. Despite the legislature and every statewide elected office being controlled by Republicans for nearly two decades, efforts have thus far been unsuccessful.

A 2022 Republican Primary Election ballot proposition passed with the overwhelming support of Republican primary voters. The ballot proposition read:

“Texas parents and guardians should have the right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.”

Nearly 88% of Republican primary voters supported the proposition.

In June of 2021, the American Federation for Children responded to polling released from RealClear Opinion Research which showed that 74% of voters support school choice.

The CEO of the American Federation for Children said,

“Public support for school choice is at an all-time high. And, as the nation recovers from unprecedented, nationwide school closures, a new story is unfolding. Parents are rising up and demanding the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their children. Thankfully, more and more lawmakers are listening. Already in 2021, seventeen states have passed legislation to improve, expand, or create new school choice programs.”

Will Texas lawmakers respond accordingly?

Is A $25 Billion Surplus Coming Next Session?

Rumors have already begun to swell around Austin that there is the possibility of a historic budgetary surplus heading lawmakers’ way as appropriators begin to consider the state budget for the next biennium. The Austin swamp is already salivating about ways to spend it.

A recent tweet by Austin’s favorite leftist editor, Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, is the perfect example of the mentality of the political class when confronted with what they see as “free money”.

Of course, any informed taxpayer knows that this is not “free money” for lawmakers to give to their pet projects and other wasteful bureaucratic programs, but rather, it is a surplus of taxpayer money, and sadly money that the alleged “conservatives”, who hold the majority in both legislative chambers, are all to eager to spend.

This surplus was made possible for a number of reasons, one of which was the spending limit that was placed on the budget in the last legislative session. TFR has written at length about this being the key to finally dealing with the increasing burden of property taxes, and we have presented our plan on how we could eliminate the school property tax with the surplus alone over the course of a few years.

Yet, despite all of the bloviating and pandering by Republican lawmakers about their conservative credentials, they continue business as usual down in Austin, planning on how best to spend your money, aiding in growing government in Texas.

The question that all conservatives need to ask themselves is this: Is our state government too big?

When TFR has presented this question to Texas taxpayers all across the state, not once has a person replied with anything but a resounding YES! So then, if we readily acknowledge that our government is far too big, why do we allow it to continue to grow at all?

In the past, the Republican solution to the hypertrophy of the government is to “slow its growth”, whether that be through spending caps that slow the rate of the budget, or limits on the rate at which local governments can raise your property tax rates, but the solution is never to actually cut government spending.

Lawmakers simply keep with the status quo and use surplus dollars as a slush fund to fund wasteful programs that continue to steal money from taxpayers and instead give it to things like corporate welfare programs, like the Texas Enterprise Fund, or throw it in the Economic Stabilization Fund (An emergency fund that is simply used as a piggy bank for ongoing expenses like public education funding).

For years, fiscal Conservatives across the state have cried out to lawmakers to rein in our unaccountable government, and public schools are the worst culprit. They have seen a historic drop in education enrollment because of bad COVID policy, teaching CRT in our classrooms, promoting pornography and homosexual lifestyles, and enabling child predators with policy.

Texans do not need their tax dollars going to fund more government, they need more freedom and less government. The conservative decision, when faced with the possibility of a $25 billion surplus, is for lawmakers to commit to giving EVERY SINGLE CENT back to taxpayers in the form of tax relief.

Specifically, TFR would like to see the entire $25 billion used to pay down compression rates on the property taxes of Texans. This would result in the biggest tax relief in over a century and give much-needed relief to millions of Texans being crushed under the weight of inflation and rising gas prices. If this happened, voters might actually believe the narrative lawmakers continue to perpetuate in that we had the “most conservative session in Texas history”.

The question is will self-proclaimed conservative lawmakers continue “business as usual” in Austin, or will they finally listen to their voters and give back what has been taken from them, to begin with?

Texas House Interim Charges Released – Missing Major Priorities

Last week, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), released his list of interim charges to all House committees.

Every legislative cycle, the leaders of each respective legislative chamber issue interim charges for each committee to study in preparation for the next legislative session. Every lawmaker has the ability to request specific charges to be included on the list, but in the Texas House of Representatives, it is ultimately the Speaker of the House who makes the final decision on which charges or priorities will be studied. Here are some highlights from the House list:

Areas of Concern:

Committee on Agriculture and Livestock

Committee on International Relations & Economic Development

Committee on Transportation

Committee on Urban Affairs

Committee on Ways & Means

Not Mentioned:

After reviewing the list of charges, it is apparent that major conservative legislative priorities are left out completely. This tells us that at least one chamber of the legislature has no intention of dealing with these issues next cycle and signals to grassroots activists that they need to start applying pressure now. Here are major policy issues that are both legislative priorities of activists and poll extremely high with conservatives that Republican leadership in the Texas House appear to be ignoring:

What is made abundantly clear from these charges is that taxpayers can likely expect more of the status quo from the leadership of at least one chamber of the State Legislature, who seem obsessed with the idea of corporate welfare and continuing to ignore issues deemed legislative priorities from within their own party.

The good news is that this gives grassroots activists a headstart in attempting to force the hand of elected officials to prioritize and pass legislation prioritized by them. The first step is making sure your voices are heard in the party convention processes. If interested, check out our series on how you can help as we inch closer to the conventions this summer.

Inflation Hits A New 40 Year High At 7.9%

Americans all across the country, including here in Texas, are suffering from the fiscally irresponsible policies administered by both the federal government and the Federal Reserve in response to the pandemic. The massive amounts of Quantitative Easing and stimulus dollars (money printing) that were injected into markets over the last two years continue to wreak havoc on taxpayers. The decision by both the Trump and Biden administrations to create nearly $6 trillion new dollars has finally caused the proverbial chickens to come home and roost.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics released new Consumer Price Index (CPI) data on Thursday showing that in February 2022, inflation has reached 7.9%. As the CPI summary explains:

“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.8 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.6 percent in January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 7.9 percent before seasonal adjustment.”

This data continues to confirm an ongoing trend seen over the past few months in that inflation shows no signs of slowing down. Dr. Vance Ginn, the Chief Economist for Texas Public Policy Foundation, noted that:

NEW CPI #inflation: Up 7.9% y/y rate highest in 40 years from bad policies in DC.” and that, “Prices up 8.65% under #Biden, annual rate 7.37%. At that pace, prices 2X < 10 yrs. Prices in Feb rose at a 10.0% annual rate, which prices 2X in less than 8 yrs. Infl-adj earnings down 2.4% y/y.”

Ginn then went on to give examples of consumer goods that have been affected by the recent rise in inflation.



These numbers are likely not surprising to anyone who has visited a grocery store or bought nearly anything in the last few months. Most Texans are seeing a price increase on not only basic grocery staples but most recently in gas and energy prices. Texas’ gas prices are nearing all-time highs, and as with other goods, those increases show no signs of slowing down. As the prices rise, more and more Americans have begun to join the ongoing cries to begin increasing our own domestic production of oil and gas, including the renewal of construction of the Keystone Pipeline (after President Biden revoked permits for its construction at the beginning of his term).

Texas grassroots leaders have floated the idea that Governor Abbott should suspend the gas tax (Motor Fuels tax) in Texas, yet in TFRs opinion, this would be yet another executive overstep by our governor and the executive branch. The merits of a gas tax suspension should instead be deliberated by the state legislature. Therefore, TFR would like to see a special legislative session called to make this happen. Executive overreach is problematic, as witnessed when Abbott locked down Texas in 2020, resulting in the killing of thousands of businesses and jobs.

The question of whether inflation rates can be reigned in is completely up to policymakers in Washington D.C. Economists are expecting double-digit inflation in the coming months and as of now, it does not look like there is much anyone is willing to do to stop that from becoming a reality.

Republican Primary Voters Overwhelmingly Support Eliminating the Property Tax

Tuesday, among a litany of other issues included on the Republican Primary Election ballot, were ten propositions for Republican voters to consider related to specific policy positions.

One of those, Proposition 2, was specific to the collection of the property tax in the state of Texas, and based on the results, over three-quarters of all Republicans in Texas believe the property tax should be eliminated.

Ballot Proposition & Results

Proposition Language as it Appeared on the Ballot

Texas should eliminate all property taxes within ten (10) years without implementing a state income tax

*Source: Texas Secretary of State

Current Republican Party of Texas Platform

The Republican Party of Texas Platform currently calls for the abolishment of the property tax:

178. Abolish Property Tax: We support replacing the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and requiring voter approval to increase the overall tax burden. We urge the Legislature to develop a transition plan that is a net tax cut (one of the solutions could be a consumption tax).

Previous Legislative “Efforts”

Despite Republicans controlling the state legislature and every statewide office for nearly two decades and despite campaign promises to address the issue, the property tax burden on Texas taxpayers has exponentially increased.

The Tax Foundation reported in 2021 that Texas had the 6th most burdensome property tax in the United States. Wallethub reported just a year earlier that Texas ranked 7th in the nation.

In the most recent legislative sessions, multiple pieces of legislation were filed to put Texas on a path to property tax elimination. None were seriously considered by Republican legislative leadership, who instead prioritized trinkets designed to continue to provide what they deem relief, which in reality, only make efforts to slow the growth of such a burden on special classes of taxpayers.

Viable plans and alternatives to the property tax exist.

Given that this Republican ballot proposition overwhelmingly passed with Republican voters and the fact that the state legislature and state leadership are highly likely to remain in control of Republicans in the next legislative cycle, will elected leaders finally interpret these results as a worthwhile undertaking?

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility supports the elimination of the property tax and considers its collection as immoral. It is our position that property ownership can never truly ever be attained for as long as a requirement exists to pay perpetual rent via a property tax to the government.