TEXAS FIRE COMMISSION FUNDING:
MORE REVERSE INTERGOVERNMENTAL AID
The state budget process is a long, arduous one that involves many months of hearings, meetings, staff time, and agency input. State agencies and commissions are usually aware of their fate with sufficient time to vet proposals and provide feedback to the legislature on funding mechanisms. However, changes made to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection’s budget in the final hours of the last legislative session require the commission to use city fees to fund the state’s general fund.
Most regulatory agencies are essentially “self-funded.” This means that they are required to collect fees from those they regulate to cover all direct, indirect, and operational costs. The Commission on Fire Protection is no different. It is required to generate revenue through fees on cities and firefighters to cover all of the costs of the commission for the biennium. For the current biennium, this amounts to $3.9 million. However, a rider was placed in the commission’s budget during the last few hours of the 2011 session. The rider requires it to generate an additional $3.38 million to be swept into the state’s general revenue fund for general purpose state spending.
To raise the needed revenue for the operation of the commission and to return the required $3.38 million to the state, the commission previously raised fees by 142 percent. (Commission staff indicates that no future increases are currently planned.) Many firefighters, and in some cases the cities they work for, saw this fee increase for what it was: a new, legislatively-imposed state tax on their profession.