AP NEWS

Landgraf, Craddick team up

February 23, 2019

State Reps. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, and Tom Craddick, R-Midland, filed a legislative package that seeks to redirect state money generated by oil and gas production back into energy-producing regions.

Landgraf said the Generate Recurring Oil Wealth for Texas Fund, known as the GROW Texas Fund, was introduced to address burdens faced by residents living in areas most heavily impacted by energy production like Odessa and Midland.

Texas imposes a severance tax on the extraction of non-renewable natural resources, which helps add millions to the state’s budget. The Grow Texas Fund would secure a percentage of existing state revenue paid by oil and gas producers through severance taxes for specific re-investment in the Texas oil patch, a news release from Landgraf’s office stated.

The legislative measures contain components that zero in on improving highways and public roadways that have deteriorated from increased oilfield activity, and recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers, first responders and educators by providing grants for higher salaries.

“If you look at the current fiscal year, 9 percent of the oil and gas severance tax that was generated in Texas would amount to $871 million,” Landgraf said. “We’re taking money that would otherwise go to the Rainy Day Fund, which is already robust, and reinvesting it in areas that are responsible for that source of state revenue in the first place.”

While energy production areas have flourished with activity, residents across Ector County that work for law enforcement or the school district have often struggled to afford the cost of living.

Vacant law enforcement positions and teacher shortages have added strain to local operations as residents take off for higher paying positions in the oilfield or more affordable cities altogether.

Ector County Independent School District Communications Officer Mike Adkins said in January there were about 400 openings overall in ECISD.

The Ector County Sheriff’s Office has also had to frequently do more with less. Sheriff Mike Griffis has his eye on trying to keep pace with the current needs of residents and the continued population growth anticipated for the county.

“What happens here in the Permian Basin reverberates throughout the entire state - it generates wealth, it strengthens the tax base for all of Texas and it creates jobs in every corner of the state,” Landgraf said. “If we let infrastructure and public safety and education get to a choking point in places like the Permian Basin we are really threatening the heartbeat of the Texas economy.”

Craddick said in the release the blessings to the region under this plan are undeniable, but it is important to remember “that our entire state would benefit.”

Landgraf’s and Craddick’s legislative measures require a supermajority in the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate as well as a constitutional amendment adopted by Texas voters to become law, the release stated. If the legislative package makes it to voters in November, benefits could be seen as soon as 2020.