Texas border sees bump in sales tax revenues despite COVID-19 travel restrictions

National News

Travel 42 restrictions are still imposed on the border with Mexico, but essential workers and trade and commerce appear to be flowing well between the two countries, resulting in a boost in sales tax revenue in August along the Texas border, according to new figures released this week by the Texas Comptroller. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Despite Title 42 travel restrictions still in effect on the Southwest border, sales tax revenue figures for border cities and counties within Texas increased in August almost border-wide and that means more money for border communities this month, according to new data released by the Texas Comptroller’s office.

Sales tax allocations for October, which are based on sales tax revenue from August, show cities and counties statewide will get a revenue increase of about 20%. But on the border, most cities will receive an even bigger increase because of a bump in sales taxes during August.

That’s encouraging news for border communities that have suffered under travel restrictions — imposed in March 2020 under the Trump administration and extended through the Biden administration to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

From El Paso, in West Texas, to the Gulf Coast city of Brownsville, border cities, on average had a 23% increase in sales tax revenues in August, the Texas Comptroller reported this week. Some border sales tax allocations include:

  • McAllen is getting a 23% increase from August 2020 and will receive $6.3 million, up from $5.2 million.
  • Laredo: A 23.4% increase and getting $3.9 million, up from $3.2 million.
  • Brownsville: A 23% increase and getting $3.95 million, up from $3.2 million.
  • Presidio: A 36% increase and getting 41,066, up from $30,111.
  • Eagle Pass: A 22.8% increase and getting $445,291, up from $362,445.
  • El Paso: A 16.5% bump and receive $9 million, up from $7.7.
  • Roma, in Starr County: A 3.7% increase and getting $114,134, up from $110,056.

There were some exceptions, however.

The South Texas city of Del Rio had only a 1% increase in sales tax revenue in August. However, that number is expected to greatly increase for September sales tax figures because that is when thousands of law enforcement and federal agents, journalists and volunteers descended upon the remote border town as a caravan of mostly Haitian migrants camped under the international bridge and brought worldwide attention to the city with a population of just 35,000.

ABOVE LEFT: An estimated 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, camped under the Del Rio International Bridge, as seen from atop the bridge on Sept. 17, 2021. RIGHT: A National Guardsman patrols the entrance to the bridge on Sept. 17, 2021. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photos)

Rio Grande City in Starr County saw a decrease of 5% in sales tax figures, which some attribute to Operation Lone Star, a program in which Gov. Greg Abbott has surged hundreds of Texas troopers to border communities to combat a surge in migrants.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera earlier told Border Report that the presence of added troopers deters some residents from venturing to shop because many are low-income and have older vehicles, some not in compliance with state laws, and they don’t want to risk getting a ticket.

An examination by Border Report of tickets issued by Department of Public Safety troopers and other law enforcement found a disproportionate number of citations issued in Starr and Hidalgo Counties due to the increase in state troopers.

On Sept. 20, Abbott announced a $100 million grant program affiliated with Operation Lone Star to border communities to help enhance security as well as funds to border communities.

“This program will strengthen our response to the crisis at the border and help keep our communities safe,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is surrounded by nine other governors on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas, on the banks of the Rio Grande. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

During a visit to the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, along with nine other governors from across the nation, Abbott reiterated his support for Operation Lone Star and said Texas communities are bearing the fiscal brunt of border security, which he calls a federal responsibility.

“Texas and other states are taking action to do the federal government’s job,” Abbott said.

The state had applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency funds citing the border crisis but was rejected by the Biden administration. On Thursday, Abbott sent a letter to President Biden to appeal the denial of funds.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.