by Donna McCollum
Nacogdoches county commissioners loaded up their luggage for Austin on Monday. Yes, a little old fashion 'politi'kin' is in store, but there's a serious mission in mind. County Commissioner Charles Simmons said, "The governor and speaker do not know what Nacogdoches County needs, or any other county. We are going to have a tough fight and, hopefully, we can survive. If not, we may have to cut some services, and that would be bad."
County governments are concerned about proposals to put caps on property taxes. Courts seldom go past the 8% rollback, but commissioners are concerned about ways to pay for all those state demands. County Commissioner Reggie Cotton explained, "We have to follow those laws, and actually have to allocate money for the mandated issues, but a lot of the unfunded mandate is where we have a problem with."
Before hitting the road, commissioners spent several hours discussing some of those mandates. With Sheriff Thomas Kerss, they developed a plan to quickly negotiate with counties to house a surplus of inmates. Kerss said, "Jail overcrowding versus prison overcrowding is certainly one of those issues. Mental health costs that has been passed onto counties because there's not adequate funding at the state level - that's certainly another issue."
Kerss will arrive in Austin on Tuesday. He knows he'll log the miles going back and forth to Austin to testify before committees on the issues of local law enforcement. "I have said for a long time, Nacogdoches County really doesn't have significant problems that money wouldn't solve."
Simmons' tone expresses how problems aren't quickly solved. "I don't think the legislature has much concern about jail issues or else they would be building more space," he said.
State Comptroller Susan Combs says Texas has 14.3 billion dollars in new money to spend in the coming two years. Governor Perry says the estimate means 'high priority' spending items can be addressed.