Balancing oil boom budget on the border

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NOTICE: Patriots interested in occupying the Texas-Mexican border, call 580-726-1300 and enter 639939# to get further instructions and information

 A SNAPSHOT OF THE POLITICS OF GREED

Laredo, Webb County, Texas – Most of the 90,000 children who authorities predict will cross the border illegally this year and be held for detention will be found by Border Patrolmen on the streets of the colonias and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

That’s a figure that has increased dramatically from 2011 – 28,000 – and 2013, with about 40,000.

Half a million people live on the Texas-Mexican border in squalid and unsanitary conditions in 2,294 subdivisions called colonias – developments platted and approved by Commissioners Courts without even the most basic provisions for sewage, water, and storm drainage.

Most of these are located in flood plains unsuitable for building, areas which have no natural drainage, where raw sewage mixes with runoff to choke creeks and ditches, then flow into the Rio Grande, where border towns get their drinking water.

They are breeding grounds for disease. According to Texas Department of Health reports, “hepatitis A, salmonellosis, dysentery, cholera and other diseases occur at much higher rates in colonias than in Texas as a whole. Tuberculosis is also a common health threat, occurring almost twice as frequently along the border…”

The homeowners cross into America illegally in their quest for work, buy lots in these communities, but receive no guarantee of clear title as they make payments in owner-financed schemes.

They build their shacks piecemeal, as funds become available to build on with makeshift materials. The result is that building inspectors refuse to sign off on the structures in approval of grant and loan programs that would allow them to be improved with plumbing and sewer services. The people haul their water in 55-gallon drums, or pay tanker truck drivers to fill 2,500-gallon tanks. The effluent of their bathrooms? Who knows. There are everything from outhouses to septic tanks that don’t drain into lateral lines.

Here’s a clue. When you see a pile of toilet paper on the floor next to a commode in a public toilet, you are looking at a place where undocumented aliens who have crossed the border illegally go to relieve themselves. They are conditioned to do so because the sewer systems they use in Mexico and on the border will not accept toilet paper, just won’t wash it down. They burn it, but if there’s no receptacle in which to place it, they just throw it on the floor.

Whew!

About 42 percent of the population of the colonias lives in Hidalgo County. They do farm work on both sides of the border. That work, according to conservative politicians, is work that Americans refuse to do. So that makes it okay.

Undocumented aliens occupy a major place in the national economy, as a foundation stone in a system that consumes their produce, yet makes no provision for their quality of life – any compensation for the impact that has on the rest of the population.

There are 15 such colonias in and around Laredo and Webb County, the largest inland port in the nation, which in the past decade has outstripped Detroit as the place where far more goods cross the border on any given day than any other place.

What funding is available to help with public health concerns in the colonias is ephemeral. One border county reports spending about a quarter of a million dollars from various public sources on water and sewer improvements. The authors of the report don’t say where the money came from, nor do they project the future source of any more such funds.

The truth is, the money came from sources as diverse as the State Energy Conservation Office, which was established to dole out money from the Oil Overcharge Fund, a line item in the General Revenue Fund. This source of funding was set aside after U.S. Department of Energy officials determined that oil companies had charged far too much money for crude produced during the 80’s and 90’s.

The outcome of the litigation is murky, amid holdings that funds that were obtained from Exxon, for instance, may be used only in energy conservation projects in five specific areas. Funds obtained from operators of stripper wells and Diamond Shamrock, on the other hand, are “less restrictive,” according to state officials. They may be used in anything from providing traffic signals to converting public vehicle fleets to run on natural gas, or tuning up balky engines.

Money that was not spent during a 10-year period is freed to do the job as the Legislature approves. That approval is slow in coming. Its bestowal most sparing.

As of August, 1992, $390.2 million were allocated to Texas, the largest share in the nation. Of these, $371.2 million were set aside for specific projects such as fixing the sewage problems in colonias, but there’s a catch.

The Legislature must approve the expenditures, and though $262.9 million was obligated, actual expenditures amounted to only $132.6 million.

Like other state funds, the officials who ride herd on these dollars earmark them, but then neglect to spend the money; instead, they carry the amount forward in a faux budget-balancing sleight of hand that makes it look as if there is little or no deficit spending in the Texas system.

Poring through the list of funds, one is moved to laughter. For instance, for the purpose of oil field cleanup, a purpose with an account number and the works, “$0.” Rape victims compensation, “$24.19.”

How much is invested in mortgage backed securities? Get a load of this one. “$2,206,698,449.”

Then there’s the $811.3 million that has been collected at .65 per 1,000 kilowatt hours from consumers of electrical power to compensate the poorest Texans pay their bill – a group that in 2011 numbered at nearly a milion, 915,281. That’s one in six. It’s all allocated, but only a very small percentage has been spent.

The State of Texas Cash Report and the Legislature’s General Appropriations Act for the 2014-2015 Biennium both show there are funds designated to be spent on improving water and sewage conditions of living in the colonias. But it’s like Ragú, “It’s in there.”

Where it’s located – and an exact figure on how much – is very obscure fact, a great mystery to be sure, but it’s in there, somewhere.

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