A Texas government office that focuses on auto theft is on track to be defunded, but the $1 annual fee that Texans pay to keep the office open probably won’t disappear, reports the Texas Tribune. Under preliminary legislative budget proposals, funding is nixed for the Texas Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, a five-person shop that lawmakers created in 1991. It awards grants to police agencies to help prevent and investigate the crimes that are its namesake.
But the $1 fee Texans pay on their auto insurance policies to fund the agency would be swept into the state's general fund to help close the $15 billion to $27 billion budget gap. “Sounds like a misuse of the fee to me,” says Talmadge Heflin, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Fiscal Policy. Without the prevention programs, auto thefts could proliferate, just as they did before the agency was created, resulting in rate hikes by insurers trying to cover their losses. “It's going to be like Mardi Gras in the streets with these car thieves,” says Lt. Tommy Hansen of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Department. “The theft rate in the state of Texas is going to skyrocket.”