November 01, 2008
Watch out for that bus, Tony

Normally, I wouldn't bother to comment on a story like this, but there's an aspect to it that I can't resist.

At a time when Gov. Rick Perry is ordering state agencies to cut their budgets and brace for economic decline, the Texas House of Representatives is renovating its members lounge with new furnishings, televisions, a refrigerator and other upgrades.

Aides to House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, confirmed that state tax dollars are being used for the upgrade, which also apparently includes $30,000 worth of antique wood as well as new carpet and food-service improvements. They declined to immediately provide cost figures.

Watchdog groups said it was the wrong time to spend government dollars on a members-only lounge for politicians.

"That's completely inappropriate," said Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, a taxpayer advocacy group. "Now is not the time to be engaging in extravagant dalliances. Now is the time for the Legislature to show leadership by restraining itself."

As you know, for the most part stories of legislators spending money on themselves or their staffs don't bother me. The amount of money involved is generally negligible. In this case, the funds have already been allocated - if you're going to get outraged at stuff like this, you should have done so during the budget and appropriations process, when it might have made a difference. I don't have a quarrel with anyone who wants to raise a fuss about stuff like this, but I do think the fusses that get raised tend to be out of proportion to the issue itself.

What caught my eye about this story is the following:

Craddick's office said the project is being coordinated by state Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, chairman of the House Administration committee.

Goolsby said two new TVs, a refrigerator and a new food service line were included in the upgrade, but the 19-year House veteran otherwise had scant details about the expenditures.

Goolsby said he hadn't kept up with it because he's been too focused on his own political survival in a district where supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama -- and presumably his opponent Carol Kent -- are highly energized.

"I'm up to my ass in a damn campaign," Goolsby said. "This is the only job I've got and I'm trying to save it. Obama's got people coming from the rafters."

That's remarkable. As Burka notes, Craddick's office could have easily swatted this aside. Yet instead, they put the responsibility on a guy whose re-election is endangered, and whose re-election they may desperately need to ensure Craddick's return as Speaker. I don't know if this makes Craddick confident of his ultimate fate regardless of what happens to Goolsby, or just resigned to it. Either way, it's pretty amazing. Vince and BOR have more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 01, 2008 to That's our Lege
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)