Texas Local Debt Hits $328 Billion as National Guard Troops Remain Unpaid for Border Control
The Texas Bond Review Board indicated the state's total local debt grew by $5 billion as the Lone Star State is having trouble compensating National Guard troops sent to the border.
According to Forbes, Texas' local debt is over $12,400 per Texan. The state's debt climbed to nearly $328 billion, an increase of $30 billion during the last five years. The state's debt is also projected to climb higher. As a result of the growing debt, Texans could face an increase in local property taxes in order to control the debt.
The state is reportedly having trouble paying the National Guard troops deployed by Gov. Rick Perry to assist on the southern border. National Guard troops sought assistance from food banks in the Rio Grande Valley.
"We were contacted that 50 [National Guard] troops that are in the Valley don't have any money for food and gas and they need our assistance," Food Bank RGV Executive Director Terri Drefke told KGBT.
"To have any of our men and women in uniform having to be in a food bank line is embarrassing for Texas," said State Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville. Oliveira blamed Texas state officials for the "disrespect" shown National Guard troops.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said it was "unacceptable" for National Guard troops to be "forced to contact" food banks to feed themselves due to not being paid. State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said the lack of resources for the troops was "disgraceful" and volunteered to personally deliver food.
Texas National Guard officials have since rebuked those claims. According to spokeswoman Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, via the American-Statesman, a family assistance coordinator was being "proactive" and contacted the Rio Grande Valley food bank to "see what resources were potentially available."
The National Guard revealed 50 service members were not going to be paid until Sept. 5 due to the troops starting earlier than scheduled in August. Officials said none of the 50 troops notified their leaders about contacting a food bank. According to the National Guard, each service member receives one meal while on duty in addition to a $32 per-day food reimbursement that's provided in their paychecks.
A statement from Perry's office also confirmed the first paycheck for the troops will come Sept. 5, and then every two weeks after that.
Perry's office added, "Based on information provided by the Texas National Guard, two soldiers sought and received assistance through the Family Assistance Coordinator. Family Assistance Coordinators routinely help Guardsmen all across the state with needs they may have, regardless of deployment or duty status. Also, based on information provided by the Guard, they currently have no indication that any Guardsmen received any assistance from the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank."
Perry called for nearly 1,000 National Guard troops to deploy to the Rio Grande Valley as part of "Operation Strong Safety." The deployment is expected to cost Texas taxpayers $12 million per month. The operation is aimed to combat criminal activity in the region and help provide border security as an influx of immigrants comes from Mexico and Central America. As Latin Post reported, per federal law, the National Guard are not allowed to apprehend and prevent people from crossing into the U.S.