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The budget bungle

Paul Burka, who says it feels like May in the House, previews the next budget atrocity about to be visited upon us.

Democrats believe that the play is that [Appropriations Chair Warren] Chisum will bring a bill to the floor with the $5 billion unallocated, leaving the maximum maneuvering room in conference committee. No doubt there will be a Calendars committee rule putting the money beyond members’ reach with floor amendments. Then, in conference, the budget writers can put the money anywhere they want–and future property tax reductions is very likely to get a bundle.

The advantage to the leadership of leaving the money unspent is considerable. It can be used as a whip or a carrot in the closing weeks of the session to browbeat or entice members into casting their votes as the leadership wishes. We should know the script pretty soon. The Appropriations committee has begun marking up the bill. If HB 1 does not show significant increases over the base bill in areas like health care and education, you’ll know that the game plan is to make property tax relief the highest priority. Is it conceivable that this leadership could have a $14 billion surplus and still not make a significant effort to fund the basic needs of this state? It’s conceivable to me.

Dear “Democrats for Real Reform”:

Just so we’re clear, this is why the rest of us are pissed off. Yes, we know, you got your shiny new committee chairs and whatnot in return for your support of the current regime. Who knows, you may even be able to do some good from those lofty perches. I hope you can, because Lord knows there’s not enough good in the world, let alone in the Lege. But frankly, it won’t matter, because it’s not possible for you to do enough good to undo all the bad that’s going to get done, and already has been done.

It’s very simple. They don’t care about restoring CHIP. They’re not going to fully fund the schools. They took six billion dollars out of general revenue to fund a reckless property tax cut, and I guarantee you they’re going to take more to pay for more of those cuts in 2009. There will be a few scraps left over to fight for, but for the third regular session in a row, we’re gonna get screwed. That’s just how it is.

Now, maybe things wouldn’t be that much better with a different Speaker. I’m sure Jim Pitts would have done his darnedest to fund that property tax cut, too. But maybe, just maybe, with someone other than Warren Chisum in charge of the purse strings, we could have rejigged the priorities a little. Let’s just say that this is one of those times where the devil you know was unquestionably the greater of the two evils.

So this is why we’re mad, and why people are tossing around words like “primary” and “Iscariot”. And just think, there’s three full months left of this joy. How lovely.


All of us cranky bloggers

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  1. Here’s the part of the Iscariot logic I find odd. You write, “for the third regular session in a row, we’re gonna get screwed.” And you say the reason is Warren Chisum is a bad guy and Jim Pitts might have appointed someone better. But Jim Pitts was in the slot Chisum’s in now that “screwed” us the past two sessions. So why would anyone be a Judas for refusing to support him?

    That’s why I think all the primary talk over this is just silly. Win a few more general elections, then Ds can elect their own speaker on their own terms. I guarantee any of the Craddick Ds would have supported a viable D speaker candidate, but there wasn’t one. Until there is, the Iscariot talk strikes me as little more than political juvenalia. best,

  2. It’s not so odd. Pitts, by challenging Craddick, showed he had come to realize how bad things were. He’d have run things differently. Would it have been perfect? Of course not. But it would have been better, if for no other reason than it’s hard to see how it could have been worse.

  3. Do you really think Pitts opposed Craddick because “he had come to realize how bad things were”? I heard it was because Craddick told him he would no longer be Appropriations Chair.

    I’ve never heard of Pitts expressing one iota of regret for the last two session’s budgets. Have you?