Dallas County

Dallas County Spurns State Over Clean Air Program Cash

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and other county commissioners voted to stop collecting the county's $6 vehicle inspection fee.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and other county commissioners voted to stop collecting the county's $6 vehicle inspection fee. Mikel Galicia
Dallas County vehicle inspections are about to get a little cheaper. That's not necessarily a good thing. The Dallas County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Wednesday to stop collecting the $6 fee it's charged Dallas drivers for more than a decade as part of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's clean air programs.

The county isn't stopping the fee because it wants to get rid of the programs, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Wednesday. Jenkins and the other county commissioners don't want to collect the fee anymore because this legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott elected to keep the funds collected from Dallas and several other counties in order to certify the state of Texas budget.

"The state of Texas has been stealing our residents' $6 clean air fee that was supposed to be sent back to Dallas County to help with air quality programs," Jenkins said. "The state isn't using the money for the environment; rather, they are keeping it to balance their budget."

Since 2002, drivers in Dallas-Fort Worth have been charged the extra $6 to pay for things like the Clean Air Task Force, the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance Program and the Accelerated Retirement Program, which is better known as "Cash for Clunkers." Until this year, the state of Texas would've collected the cash and then redistributed it to DFW and other urban areas that participate in the program.

That's not happening. When Abbott signed the state's new budget this year, he vetoed $87 million in funding for the state's clean air programs for the next two years. While Dallas' county commissioners vowed Wednesday to find the cash to keep the environmental programs going over the next two years, Jenkins said Dallas County is done propping up Abbott's budget with the inspection fee.

"Gov. Abbott vetoed funding for this clean air program in the upcoming biennial budget and has not supported legislation that stops the misappropriation. We must stand up against the state's attempts to overtax urban areas to balance the whole of the state's budget," Jenkins said.

The plan signed off on by the Commissioners Court on Wednesday calls for the fee to be suspended as soon as possible — but not before Sept. 1, when the county's new fiscal year begins.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young