April 15, 2007
Possibly the last thing I'll say about Danno's outburst

I received the following email from Court Koenning, Sen. Patrick's chief of staff, in response to my earlier post about the Patrick/Whitmire fight on the Senate floor from Thursday:

Good evening. Didn't want to post a response to your update, but I did want to set the record straight to you directly after your "update."

You said in part, "He may not have been on Finance, but he could have made proposals, authored bills, or introduced amendments, to do the things he wanted to." Well that isn't exactly accurate. The Finance Committee process is rather closed to non-Finance Committee members. If you aren't a member of the Committee you get little if any say into the final budget (unless they need your vote on the floor). And you certainly do not dare attempt to amend the budget on the floor. To prove my point you know Sen. Shapleigh is a huge supporter of CHIP. And he spoke at length on Thursday about more funding needed for CHIP (as did other members). However, he did not offer a single amendment to increase such funding. That is because he knows (as do all the other members) that the Senate budget is not amendable once it reaches the floor. Ask anyone who has worked in or around the Senate and they will confirm. The House is totally different.

When the budget came out of committee we had 48 hours to act. We used every bit of that time. I handed the list to Dan after the debate had already started on Thursday. When members were hammering the budget because it didn't spend enough, I pulled Dan off to the side and said you need to talk about the budget spending too much and you need to make reference to some of the items on the list. At that point we had no plan to release the list, but by the time he stood to speak he knew he had to make reference to the list and if he referenced the list we would have to release it. The expedited process required the actions we took. And more specifically, when the day's session concluded I said to Dan off the floor "I guess I need to go prepare a release?" He said "yeah you better." The release and the list were distributed to the press a little more than an hour afterwards.

I know you aren't a Dan supporter, but we did our homework. We did exactly what we told people we would do. Work for change and give them a voice in the Texas Senate. As an anecdote, as Dan left the Capitol on Thursday, a state trooper stopped him and said "thanks for standing up for me today. I'm a homeowner and I'm certainly not rich."

Those are the facts should you or anyone else choose to report them.

I appreciate the response. Mr. Koenning is quite right that I am not a supporter of Sen. Patrick's, but I give him credit for being willing to engage directly in this kind of debate. It's a good thing all around.

I'm going to add three points to this, and then barring something new happening will let it go before I bore anyone who's still reading about this to tears. You can of course add on in the comments.

1. The question of how the Senate Finance Committee operates is not really relevant. The 2007-08 budget may have been made out of Dan Patrick's sight, but the budgets from the previous cycles have been a matter of public record. How many items on Danno's List were things that had been allocated funds in the past, possibly for more than one cycle? The Texas Enterprise Fund, for one, is something the Dems have tried to kill since it was first introduced in 2003. Had Patrick looked at the last couple of budgets to identify his "waste" items, he might have missed a thing or two, and he might not have gotten his "savings" up to $3 billion - at the least, he'd have to qualify his total as being in 2005 dollars. But he'd have been able to get many of these things out there before Sen. Ogden and crew did their work, and that might have enabled some actual political pressure on them to do something about them. Maybe now such pressure will exist when the 2009-10 budget is written. The point I'm making - again - is that had Sen. Patrick chosen a different path, he might have had an actual effect this time around. Working outside the process has a cost.

2. Just because Dan Patrick says something is "waste" doesn't mean that it is. I think money spent on abstinence education is wasteful, too, but a lot of people would disagree with that, and I'd bet they represent the majority, not Dan and me. I'd bet a lot of people in SD07 would disagree with Danno on that point, in fact. Budgets are about priorities, and the way to get your priorities funded - or someone else's not funded, since every item in the budget represents someone's priority - is to convince a majority of your colleagues that your priority is more important.

3. Finally, somewhat tangentially to what we've been discussing here, I'd like to highlight a comment by Dick Lavine, which he made in Patricia Kilday Hart's response to Danno's response to her:

On the question of facts: Sen. Patrick will be pleased to learn that the Center for Public Policy Priorities, using data published by the comptroller in her biennial study of tax incidence, has calculated who wins and who loses when general revenue is used to replace school property taxes, as HB 2 this session will do to the tune of nearly $7 billion for the biennium.

The winners: only the 20% of households with incomes over about $110,000.

The losers: the other 80% of Texas households. Including the average middle-class family earning $50-60,000 a year that Sen. Patrick says he is standing up for.

For details, see http://www.cppp.org/research.php?aid=638, page 3.

That's all I've got.
UPDATE: OK, I lied, there is one more thing: PinkDome has put the video on YouTube. Check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 15, 2007 to That's our Lege

Standing up for US? A State Trooper? Just goes to show you how ignorant the middle class is.

Maybe this state trooper should look at his insurance bill, his electricity bill, and his kids college education costs.

Shoot, lets all wake up folks.

Getting a tax cut to get screwed is being stupid.

Posted by: John cobarruvias on April 15, 2007 7:42 PM

I talked to someone who works in the state Capitol this weekend (and I will not disclose his name because he probably does not want his name out there), and I was told that while Senator Patrick released his list to the press, he didn't release it to his fellow Senators. That is why he should be chastised, more than anything else. His Chief of Staff insists that the Finance Committee is closed, but I was told that with about half of the Senate's members on it; that almost everyone gets a say. At the very least, he could have given his list to everyone on the committee.

Posted by: Michael Hurta on April 15, 2007 11:41 PM