AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott urged state agencies to think twice before accepting funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in a letter sent out Tuesday morning.
As the federal government begins allocating funding to state and local governments, Abbott asked agency leaders to “carefully assess” the implications of federal funding agreements. Texas is set to receive about $35 billion from the infrastructure deal, according to a White House analysis.
“Should the acceptance of any federal funds hinder or needlessly constrain the state, commit the state to ongoing costs for which there is not an appropriation available, or require an agency to implement a federal policy contrary to the law or policy of this state, the agreement proposed by the federal agency should not be signed,” Abbott wrote.
Vance Ginn, the chief economist for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, applauded the governor’s cautious approach.
“I really suggested that we look at this closely. We reject funds that are coming down if we really don’t need them,” he said. “If that is going to set us up for future spending in things that that state does not need, then we shouldn’t have it down in that direction.”
Ginn said he hopes most of the funding is earmarked as one-time expenditures. The White House provided estimates about how much each Texas sector should receive, but state agencies are still figuring out the details of how and when they can spend it.
“Whenever the state receives some sort of money from the federal government with taxpayer dollars going through the federal level, there usually will be some sort of strings attached,” Ginn said. “Because we don’t want to leave is what we call fiscal cliffs — where you put additional money into a certain area, and that money dries up and now you don’t have the money available in the future.”
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he thinks the spending outlines are “pretty straightforward” for state agencies to follow.
“It was a bipartisan bill. So, if there were any concerns, I think that our Republican friends would have brought that up or would not agree to that,” Cuellar said. “…My prediction is that most the grand majority of these dollars will be accepted by the state of Texas.”
Some of the Biden Administrations allocation estimates for Texas include the following:
- $26.9 billion for highway programs
- $3.3 billion for public transportation expansion
- $2.9 billion for clean water improvement
- $1.2 billion for airport expansion
- $537 million for bridge repairs
- $408 million for electric vehicle charging stations
- $100 million for broadband expansion
- $53 million for wildfire protection
- $42 million for cybersecurity protection
Cuellar said Abbott’s letter to state agencies was on par with his typical “hesitation when it comes to federal dollars,” but emphasized the need for these investments in the state now.
“Those are things that are very basic that the state of Texas has taken advantage of and I think we should take advantage of that as soon as possible,” he said. “Texas is growing our federal dollars, our state dollars — we need to do more to make sure that we get our roads paved, and create new highways in the state of Texas so our economy keeps growing.”