Landgraf, Craddick help add funds to fill staff shortage in driver license offices
Elected officials know the wait times at the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Mega Center in Midland continue to be a problem.
To combat those concerns, State Reps. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, and Tom Craddick, R-Midland, amended the budget bill proposed in the Texas House of Representatives to add funding to increase salaries for positions at DPS driver license offices in the Permian Basin.
The budget amendment would give DPS an additional $500,000 to use as incentive pay to fill the vacant positions at the Mega Center and other driver license offices in the surrounding area.
“There are so many areas where (Craddick and I) have shared interest,” Landgraf said during a phone interview on Thursday. “Whenever we have shared problems, we like to find a shared solution.”
The House passed the budget, House Bill I, unanimously on the final vote early Thursday morning and it will now move to the Senate for approval. Landgraf said the Senate will see House Bill I sometime next week.
The budget would go into effect on Sept. 1 and last until Aug. 31, 2021. Landgraf said the $500,000 wouldn’t be a reoccurring expenditure as it would need to be amended again for the additional funding.
Landgraf said the $500,000 budget amendment for DPS would be spent on an as-needed basis.
On the DPS website, which shows current job openings, the pay listed as a customer service representative at the Mega Center is about $14 to $15 an hour. The job description also states there are two customer service representative openings.
Landgraf said many companies in the Permian Basin have to overcome competitive pay and retention because of oil and gas companies. The same website also lists a job for the Railroad Commission of Texas to be an oil and gas field inspector and the pay for that job is about $24 to $26 an hour.
“The base pay for these DPS positions is a pretty good wage for an entry level job in most places in the state, but because we have a high cost of living in the Permian Basin, it’s almost impossible to live on the salary that it’s currently set, so that is why we have to make some special accommodations,” Landgraf said. “The higher the wage, the more competitive it is. We are trying to make these positions a little more desirable.”
Rosie Lopez, who is lives in Odessa, said she doesn’t believe an increased staff at the Mega Center would make a difference. She said she believes the driver’s license offices should be split between Odessa and Midland.
Lopez said she took two days off of work to get her son his driver’s license. The first day she spent all day at the Mega Center. The second day she asked how long the wait would be and the person working at the Mega Center said there were about 160 people in front of her.
Lopez and her son drove 50 miles southwest to Crane. She said it took her son less than 30 minutes to get his license.
“I honestly don’t think it’s about the workforce or how many people are there,” Lopez said. “I don’t think that Mega Center is big enough for the Midland and Odessa area. Our population has grown enormously these past five years. That Mega Center is not nearly enough to cover that.”
The 86th Texas legislative session continues until May 27.