Senator Craig Estes and Representative Dianne White Delisi join together to help save Texas' Military Bases
AUSTIN -- State Senator Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and State Representative Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, invited a bipartisan group of legislators, members of the Texas Military Preparedness Commission, and staff members from the Governor's, Lt. Governor's, and Speaker's offices to join them in sponsoring legislation that will give Texas' military communities the tools they need to help preserve and possibly expand their bases through the upcoming round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
Senate Bill 252 and House Bill 548 were filed simultaneously yesterday by Senator Estes, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations and a member of the Senate Subcommittee on BRAC, and Representative Delisi, a member of the House Committee on Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations. The two have been working jointly to correct legislation from the last regular session that inadvertently limited the use of 4A/4B economic development funds in a way that hinders communities seeking to preserve local bases.
The 4A/4B funds refer to voter-approved local sales taxes ranging from one-eighth cent to one-half cent imposed under sections 4A and 4B of the Development Corporation Act. Such voter-approved local sales taxes, first authorized 1989, have been used in a variety of ways by communities to raise funds for economic development projects, including infrastructure development around military bases. HB 2912, from the 78th Legislature, contained a provision that limited this ability to use 4A/4B funds to increase the military value of these bases.
The proposed legislation will allow military communities to once again use local 4A/4B funds for the development of military bases. It will also allow communities to use these funds to attract new military missions to their bases. In the worst case scenario, the legislation allows for the funds to be used by communities as an economic development tool to counteract the negative impact of actually losing a base.
"In 2003 the Department of Defense spent $32.8 billion dollars in Texas resulting in an estimated impact of over $77 billion on the state's economy," Estes said. "The effect of losing one of our bases will not only be felt in the respective local community, but across the entire state. For example, Sheppard Air Force Base is the largest employer in Wichita County. The ripples of losing a base of that magnitude would reach from the Oklahoma border to the Gulf of Mexico."
Representative Delisi said, "There are no Democrats or Republicans in a foxhole. This is a bipartisan issue that must be addressed. This bill is starting out the legislative process with clear support in both chambers. "
Both legislators have been working diligently to secure support and signatures from all members of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations and the House Committee on Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations for the proposed legislation. Symbolic of the support this issue has already engendered is that the chairs from both committees have come onboard as joint authors.
"I commend the proactive approach our committee members have shown. When it comes to saving our military bases and helping our military communities, there are no different sides of the aisle," Estes said.
"While some may believe the legislature seems to focus on a few legislative topics where there are honest differences of opinion, this gathering is proof that some issues truly unite us," Delisi stated. "We can - and will - take action together to help our military bases like Fort Hood and the communities that sustain them."
This will be the state's fifth round of BRAC. Started in 1988, there have been three subsequent rounds in 1991, 1993, 1995. The goal of BRAC is to resize the base structure to the changing needs of a smaller military force and reorganize military functions to reduce redundant and overlapping capabilities and missions. According to the Department of Defense, BRAC has produced a savings of about $17 billion through Fiscal Year 2001 and annual recurring savings thereafter of about $7 billion. The current round was authorized by Congress in 2001 and will be complete by November of 2005.
Representative Delisi said, "I have confidence in our colleagues that acting upon this legislation will be a big priority." Senator Estes added, "November is fast approaching, we must act now."
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