Texas border towns receive more state tax revenue, but still suffer from travel restrictions
McALLEN, Texas (Border report) – Texas border towns, as well as many towns in Lone Star State, are seeing increased sales tax allowances from the State Comptroller this month due to increased local sales . But border leaders say travel restrictions with Mexico continue to hurt border economies.
The Texas Comptroller announced that statewide $ 1.06 billion in local sales tax allowances would be paid – a 28% increase from May 2020, due to increased sales revenue in March.
The West Texas border town of El Paso saw a 36% increase in tax revenue, making it the 9th highest in the state, while the South Texas border town of McAllen, has recorded a 41.5% increase, ranking it 14th for statewide sales revenue.
Revenue increases in other border towns in March compared to the previous year included: Mercedes with 82%; 60% mission; Brownsville with 51%; Del Rio, Laredo and Weslaco with 44%; the Progreso lakes with 37%; Eagle Pass with 34%; Rio Grande City with 29%, and Roma with 22%.
But leaders in border towns say incomes could rebound much more if Title 42 travel restrictions were lifted. The public health order bans non-essential cross-border travel between the United States, Mexico and Canada at land ports of entry to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Current restrictions are in place until Friday, and many businesses and border communities are pressuring the Biden administration to enforce Trump-era restrictions to allow Mexican buyers to come and spend money in border towns.
“US small businesses face economic challenges presented by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) ban on ‘non-essential’ cross-border travel. DHS’s one-year halt to discretionary travel to land entry points has left local communities across the southern and northern borders of the United States struggling to maintain their livelihoods and way of life. We need to strike a balance between the health of the individual and the health of the local economy, ”U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas, wrote last month in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas.
Cuellar has advocated for a ‘community program’ to allow various border towns to reopen to non-essential travelers if they feel COVID-19 rates are under control on their side and south of the border.
In his letter, he suggests that all non-essential travelers be screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, and then again by local community partners upon arrival in the United States.
During testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on Thursday, Mayorkas gave no indication when the Title 42 restrictions could be lifted and pointed out that the restriction had been issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), not by DHS.
“I don’t have a schedule because I’m sitting here today. The CDC is examining the public health landscape to determine whether its authorities should be maintained, ”Mayorkas said. “It is within his competence.
But he said the restrictions were put in place to protect the health of everyone – on both sides of the border.
“Title 42 was set to protect the American public from COVID-19 and the migrants themselves,” Mayorkas said.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling told Border Report on Monday that he doubts the Title 42 restrictions will be lifted this week.
“I don’t think it will be open this month because of the politics in Washington on all of the immigration issues,” Darling said.
Darling is set to retire after a runoff in the June 5 election declared his successor.
In his April 28 State of the City address, he said the restrictions “have really hurt our traders a lot. And it’s health-based and yet we show no COVID tracing between essential workers coming and going in Mexico. And so, when you see your congressman, say “we need to establish non-essential trips” so that our friends, neighbors and business partners can cross the river. “
At the time, Darling boasted that “the city is the 15th best collector of sales taxes, even with Title 42 restrictions in place.”
But the controller’s figures, released last Wednesday, showed McAllen had climbed a notch, to claim 14th place with nearly $ 8 million in sales in March, down from $ 5.2 million the year before when everyone is locked out.
El Paso made nearly $ 11 million in sales during that period, up from $ 8 million the year before.