Natural Resources

Introduction


In fiscal 1992, Texas spent $417 million on natural resources functions, which include programs that manage the state s agricultural and recreational resources. The primary agencies involved in this function are the Department of Agriculture, the Texas Par ks and Wildlife Department, the General Land Office, the Texas Air Control Board (TACB) and the Texas Water Commission (TWC).

On September 12, 1993, TACB, TWC and Department of Health programs related to solid waste management will be combined to form a new agency, the Texas Natural Resources Commission. The new commission will also absorb the state s Board of Irrigators and the Water Well Drillers Board.

TPR s recommendations in this category are a mixed assortment of measures to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. For instance, TPR recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department be given greater freedom to increase its financial self -sufficiency from general revenue, by allowing the department to set all fees charged at its facilities and granting it greater freedom to move money among various funds that currently are dedicated to specific uses.

Other proposals would improve the perceived fairness of Texas environmental programs. TPR recommends that the hearings process of both TACB and TWC be transferred to the state s Office of Administrative Hearings, so that hearings examiners will be substantially independent from the agencies they serve. TPR also suggests that the Legislature establish an independent office of Environmental Public Interest Counsel within the Texas Natural Resources Commission. The counsel would provide explicit citizen representation in environmental administra tive hearings; unlike a similar position currently at TWC, the counsel would be appointed by the governor, prepare its own appropriations requests and have authority over its own spending.

In all, TPR s recommendations for the natural resources function w ould increase general revenue by more than $12 million in fiscal 1994-95, and reduce state employment by 11 positions. Other dedicated state accounts and funds would lose about $600,000.

Over the next five years (1994-1998), these recommendations would boost general revenue by more than $30 million. Texas dedicated accounts and funds would lose about $900,000, while the federal government would save about $600,000. Total employment reductions would the same as for the 1994-95 biennium.