FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2007
Austin, TX -- State Representatives Juan M. Garcia III (D-Corpus Christi), Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) and Solomon P. Ortiz, Jr. (D-Corpus Christi) are leading a regional effort to continue funding for the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG) program, which could bring millions to the Coastal Bend for redevelopment of Naval Station Ingleside.
"We have reached out statewide to affected communities in San Antonio, Abilene, Killeen, and Texarkana to keep this program funded," said Dick Messbarger, Executive Director of the Greater Kingsville Economic Development Council. "Ambassador Armstrong from Kenedy County has weighed in heavily because people all over the Coastal Bend know that the Ingleside closure can be an obstacle or an opportunity for our regional economy." Ambassador Armstrong served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of Saint James in the Ford Administration.
"We are all working together to help our community move past the Ingleside base closure to a stronger Coastal Bend economy," said Nueces County Judge Lloyd Neal. "Our legislative delegation and our community leaders are united as one team in this effort."
At the delegation's request, Messbarger, Armstrong, Neal, Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz, Sr. (D-Corpus Christi), Port of Corpus Christi Commissioner Reuben Bonilla and other community leaders have been contacting the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker and members of the conference committee that will decide on the final state budget proposal.
"Protecting this program has been one of my highest legislative priorities this Session," said Rep. Garcia. "What we as a community do with Ingleside post-BRAC will shape the future of the Coastal Bend."
The House budget approved on March 30 includes $20 million for the DEAAG program. However, the Senate removed the funding. Now the conference committee must reconcile the House and Senate budgets before the final proposal is debated and sent to Governor Perry.
State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), were two of eight state senators who signed a letter this week to Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) explaining their support for the DEAAG program. Senator Zaffini is a member of the conference committee.
The conference committee may complete its deliberations as soon as early next week. Ingleside would be eligible to apply for DEAAG redevelopment grants if the program is funded.
"The DEAAG program was created by the Texas Legislature in 1997 to provide state funding to leverage federal grant dollars and share redevelopment costs for communities that were hit by base closures," said Rep. Herrero. "The Coastal Bend deserves an opportunity to compete for these grant dollars and the jobs they help create."
The Corpus Christi legislative delegation has been working together to continue DEAAG funding since the Legislative Session began in January.
"Texas communities have lost almost 35,000 jobs due to base closures," said Rep. Ortiz, Jr. "However, the DEAAG program has created 12,600 jobs and leveraged $87 million in new investments in affected communities. We need this program for the Coastal Bend."
The budget conference committee is expected to continue meeting into early next week on final negotiations on the $100 billion state budget. The 80th session of the Texas Legislature ends May 28.