FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2002
AUSTIN, TX - Working closely with fellow members of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Affairs he chairs, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D-Brownsville) today announced the release of the interim report with top legislative recommendations for the Texas Border.
"Following our charges, we held public hearings throughout the Border region during the interim and from that public input, plus additional research, we've produced a 'blueprint' of legislative proposals for the 78th Legislature that address workforce development, higher education, business and industry development, community development, tourism, transportation and trade, and water."
In 1998, the Texas Strategic Economic Development Planning Commission reported that workforce development was the single most important economic development issue facing the state. In response, the Subcommittee recommends that the Texas Workforce Commission enhance its training programs to meet the specific needs and challenges of the Border workforce population.
"Our report recommends increased funding at the Texas Education Agency for adult education and requests an appropriation of $134 million for workforce adult education and literacy programs," said Sen. Lucio.
The report also recommends developing a statewide plan for improving the integration of adult education and skills training programs to provide a more seamless pathway of progression from adult basic education to workplace training.
A key recommendation is to appropriate$50 million per year of the biennium for the Skills Development Fund, using $10 million for occupational skills training in distressed counties. Additional child care funding that includes innovative grant opportunities is another recommendation.
With respect to higher education, the Subcommittee is recommending more initiatives that will improve the retention rates of students in institutions along the Border. There is also a recommendation that the Legislature support the creation of a four-year medical school in the Border region.
Prominent in the report is a proposal that would direct Texas Economic Development to study the barriers to developing the high-tech industry along the Border and offer suggestions. The Subcommittee also determined that more state resources must be targeted toward the promotion of international trade.
The high rate of population growth and the severe housing cost burden for residents along the Border led the Subcommittee to recommend increased funding for housing programs, including the Housing Trust Fund and colonia programs. There are also recommendations to improve access to mortgage and small business loans.
Essential to economic development is an adequate transportation infrastructure. Transportation proposals include more funding for additional space to conduct safety inspections at all Border crossings, expanding the Secure Electronic Network for Traveler's Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) dedicated commuter lanes at high-volume ports of entry, and encouraging the U.S. Congress to consider allowing foreign officials to serve as members of Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) policy boards in U.S. Border cities.
"It is my intention to continue focusing on solving the Border's many concerns in the realization that a strong, thriving Border benefits the entire state," added Sen. Lucio. "I personally want to thank the members of the Subcommittee, Senators John Carona, R-Dallas; Frank Madla, D-San Antonio; Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso; and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio for their valuable input."
NOTE: Report will be available on the Senate Business and Commerce Subcommittee on Border Affairs website. Staff Member in charge of the report is Ms. Laura Garcia, General Counsel and Committee Clerk, 512-463-0127.