Simmering resentment toward radio personality- turned-Senator Dan Patrick boiled over into a shouting match as the Senate debated the state budget today. Patrick announced at the beginning of the debate that he had identified $3 billion in cuts, and suggested that the current budget process didn't carefully search for efficiencies.
At first, senators responded obliquely, commenting on the hundreds of hours -- including during the interim -- that the Finance Committee put in to review agency budget requests.
But the debate disintegrated into angry shouting when Patrick responded to comments made by Sen. Mario Gallegos about the budget reserving $3 billion to pay for budget cuts "for the rich."
Patrick responded: "I am sick and tired of the rhetoric on this floor about tax cuts for the rich. ...These are hard- working families...being branded as rich, rich, rich. Somebody needs to stand up on this floor for middle-class Texans."
First, Eddie Lucio rose to defend Gallegos, who is back for the first time since his liver transplant surgery earlier this session.
But the real fireworks occurred when John Whitmire grabbed his microphone and scolded Patrick for "lecturing my best friend."
"A moment ago, you were lecturing my best friend on the Senate floor," Whitmire said. Then he went on to challenge Patrick to "share" the budget cuts he mentioned at the outset of the debate. "I want you to itemize and state the method of financing. Each member of the senate deserves to hear this and I would challenge you to do it at this time. And take your time. You owe it to this body and be sure to include the method of financing"
Patrick began a rapid-fire reading from a list of state appropriations -- apparently items he had determined shouldn't be funded.
Whitmire interrupted him: Why didn't he share this with the Finance Committee? "You didn't think it was improtant enough to share it? All you were going to do prepare this for the press?"
Patrick retorted: "Like so many things on this Senate floor, the votes were already decided."
By this time, both men were shouting, and Whitmire again told Patrick he erred he "lecturing" Gallegos.
"I don't have to be lectured by you!" shouted Patrick.
Whitmire finally threw his microphone down in disgust. And then the Senate overwhelmingly passed the budget.
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