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Feb. 29, 2024 |  By: Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

Parson seeks $2.2M to send Missouri troopers, soldiers to Texas for border duty


By Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

Sending Missouri state troopers and National Guard soldiers to Texas’s border with Mexico will cost more than $2.2 million, state officials told the House Budget Committee on Monday.

Gov. Mike Parson is sending 200 soldiers and 11 Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to work with Texas law enforcement at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 

There are about 250 National Guard soldiers already in Texas operating under federal orders, Maj. Gen. Levon Compton told the House Budget Committee. The operational commands will be separate but the goal is the same, he said.

“I have high confidence that the goal to secure the border is one that’s shared,” Compton said.

The hearing Monday was the first formal public hearing on an appropriations bill this year. The $2.2 million covers anticipated expenses through June 30, when the fiscal year ends. 

The deployment could continue into the coming fiscal year as well. Funds for those operations would be needed in upcoming budget bills.

The committee took no vote on Monday.

During questioning, Democrats asked whether the funds were truly needed and whether the state would be reimbursed for the expense.

Parson already has $4 million in a fund for state emergencies and there is enough money in the patrol’s budget to cover the expense, Budget Director Dan Haug said. The $2 million for the guard deployment would only be needed if Missouri experiences a disaster at home that required a major deployment, he said.

When National Guard soldiers are deployed on a federal mission, the national treasury picks up the cost. In this deployment, lawmakers heard, it will be up to Missouri taxpayers to foot the bill.

“This should be plenty for anything that comes up but we just want to make sure we are ready for any eventuality,” Haug said.

“It seems like if that is the case we don’t need to be here doing that,” said state Rep. Peter Merideth, a Democrat from St. Louis.

The state deployment is for Operation Lone Star, launched by Abbott in 2021, that has led to tension with President Joe Biden’s administration over jurisdiction along the Rio Grande. Last year, Texas deployed a floating barrier with razor wire at a place called Eagle Pass, which is also where Texas is constructing a permanent base for state troops stationed in Eagle Pass.

National guard troops from Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia have also been sent to Texas.

Parson’s plan is to send 11 patrol troopers to Texas for 32 days and 200 guard soldiers, with rotating tours of 50 during the 90-day mission, which could be extended.

Abbott invoked provisions for mutual aid among states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a federally recognized program adopted by Missouri in 2018.

The patrol is sending the troopers despite being 132 patrol officers short of full strength.

“Does that not put Missouri at risk when we’re sending even more troopers away when we already have a deficit of 132?” asked state Rep. Deb Lavender, a Democrat from Manchester. 

Col. Eric Olson, superintendent of the patrol, said only volunteers are going and they have been selected from eight of the patrol’s nine troop areas.

“Geographically, we spread that out,” Olson said, “and we feel like we will be able to manage this event as well as take care of our duties here at home.”