Have you ever felt like you've been robbed? If not, and you're a Texas auto insurance policyholder, get ready . . . . . it's about to happen!
The 82nd Texas Legislature is recommending a final budget for the FY 2012/2013 biennium that does not include funding for the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA), a division of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The ABTPA has been in existence for 20 years and is funded by a one dollar annual assessment on each auto insurance policy in Texas. That totals about $15 million each year.
The law that allows the dollar to be collected was specifically written for funding the Texas ABTPA, as reflected in the Texas Civil Statutes, Article 4413(37), Sec. 10. But guess what? Even though the Legislature is not providing future funding for the Texas ABTPA, THEY ARE STILL GOING TO TAKE THOSE AUTO INSURANCE DOLLARS FROM TEXAS POLICYHOLDERS!
But instead of using the money for funding the Texas ABTPA, as the law states, the money will be diverted to whatever area the legislature deems appropriate. That could include just about anything . . . . social welfare programs, funding for agencies that have squandered or overspent their budgets, or even legislator travel and perks. No matter how it's used, the money won't be going towards any effort to protect vehicles from burglary and theft.
Making the diversion of funds even more unseemly is the fact that ABTPA has been a tremendously successful agency. For the last 20 years, ABTPA has taken the collected insurance dollars and put them back into the state by funding law enforcement vehicle crime task forces.
Currently, 28 task forces are in existence across Texas, and that money is at work within community police departments, sheriffs' offices, and specialty law enforcement agencies. Approximately 200 law enforcement officers are funded by the task force grant programs, and they have been hard at work.
Since 1991, when Texas reached an all-time high for vehicle theft, the number of stolen cars has been reduced by 53 percent. And the per capita auto theft rate has been reduced by 70 percent. For each dollar that has been spent to fund ABTPA task forces, five dollars worth of stolen vehicles and burglarized property have been recovered by task force officers. Not many state agencies can boast that kind of success.
ABTPA and its task forces have never misused or squandered funds, nor has the agency been embroiled in controversy, like many other state agencies. If ABTPA does not receive funds, the task forces will be abolished, the 200 officers in the task forces will be disbanded and/or lose their jobs, vehicle thieves and burglars will once again have free reign in Texas, and vehicle crimes will likely increase.
So, if the ABTPA does not receive future funding, ask yourself the question that all Texans should be asking . . . . "When I pay one dollar on my auto insurance premium each year to prevent vehicle theft and burglary, where is that actually money going?" And then, ask your legislator the same thing. The answer could be very interesting.