East Texas lawmakers on board with using surplus to help fund rural sheriff’s departments

A Panola County Sheriff's Office cruiser.
A Panola County Sheriff's Office cruiser.(Blake Holland/KLTV)
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 5:42 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Among the ways Lt. Governor Dan Patrick wants to use the state’s record $33 billion surplus this session is funding for law enforcement. Patrick specifically wants to use some of the surplus to allocate money to rural sheriff’s departments.

Ahead of the session, Patrick said he wanted to allocate $500,000 a year or $1 million in the biennium to help fund rural departments. It’s an idea already getting support from East Texas lawmakers like State. Rep Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches).

“This is an area where we can use that money and invest that in Texas,” Clardy said. “Whether that’s dealing with facilities, manpower, however that solution needs to be funded. We have the money to do it and it’s the right thing to do. So, I’m very, very pleased to hear that that’s a priority for Lt. Governor Patrick.”

State Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview) shares similar feelings about the need for additional funding and sees the surplus as an opportunity to make it happen without reaching into the pockets of taxpayers.

“We cannot raise taxes anymore on our citizens,” Dean said. “We have to work within the budgets we have to prioritize some of these things to make sure that counties are able to hire first responders. And right now, in rural Texas, that’s a very difficult situation.”

Panola County Sheriff Cutter Clinton said he and his department would likely explore taking advantage of the funding.

“Of course, whenever we do accept money, you always want to make sure that you’re not relinquishing any autonomy to the federal or state government or putting undue obligations or misuse of resources on our local people. But if it’s a good effort just to simply help the rural sheriff’s offices and rural law enforcement, then I’m definitely open to it and absolutely support it.”

Clinton explained his sheriff’s office is primarily funded by the local tax base along with service fees from the civil division.

“In our large metropolitan areas, they have multi-billion-dollar industries, multibillion dollar corporations of course, you know, millions in population, so their tax revenue is always going to be higher than what we see in our rural areas,” Clinton said.

Clinton said thankfully counties like Panola get help from the energy industry, while acknowledging that’s not the case for all rural counties. Regardless, Clinton said surplus funding would be beneficial for his department, adding he would likely use the additional funds for training and equipment.

Lawmakers will decide on how to use surplus funding by May 29, when the 88th Texas Legislature comes to a close.