Patrick’s Prunings: How to Save $3 Billion
Here is the list of Dan Patrick’s proposed cuts from the Senate budget, totaling $3 billion. I should have posted this on Friday night, but I was fully occupied following my fantasy baseball team, the Capitol Punishers–how about Carlos Lee!–and didn’t check my e-mail. It is my intention to research these items and evaluate Senator Patrick’s choices. This will probably take a couple of days next week. I also invite readers to post their comments, pro or con, about individual budget cuts, particularly if you have some knowledge about some of these items.
The press release begins with a statement by Patrick:
AUSTIN – On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee passed a $152 Billion budget. The budget, as recommended, increases spending by 10% over the next two year budget cycle. While Senator Patrick is not a member of the Senate Finance Committee and therefore was not involved in preparing the budget, he did gather information in just two days on ways the Legislature could save nearly $3 billion in state spending.
Furthermore, under this budget, Texas will spend just $110 million (or 0.07%) to secure our border. “I believe illegal immigration is driving much of our budget increases. Exploding health care and education costs have our budget in a bind. However, we are dedicating the equivalent of a budget hick-up to secure our border. Illegal immigration is an area of significant concern to a vast majority of Texans, and we are just tossing pocket change at the problem,” Senator Patrick remarked.
“While each area we identified where the budget could be cut will most certainly have its supporters and detractors, I look at each one of these areas and have to ask two simple questions: Is this a critical role of government, and do I feel comfortable in taxing my constituents to fund it?,” Senator Patrick questioned. Those areas Senator Patrick identified are:
Commission of the Arts (eliminate)
Validation: Arts are supported through private enterprise. Federal pass-through grants available to the state can be handled directly through the Texas Education Agency.
Fiscal Research and Studies (reduction)
Validation: Data collected has been of limited value. Moreover, publications produced through this program are often produced at high costs.
Energy Office (eliminate general revenue funding)
Validation: Funds seek to promote greater efficiency in government facilities. This is a federal initiative that should be funded fully with federal dollars.
Texas Enterprise Fund (eliminate)
Validation: Is it truly necessary to entice businesses to come to Texas with tax money, or are we masking our problems with regulatory and fiscal policies with government handouts?
Texas Emerging Technology Fund (eliminate)
Validation: Once again, is it truly necessary to entice businesses with tax money, or are we masking our problems with regulatory and fiscal policies with government handouts?
Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (eliminate)
Validation: The Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) tax was set to expire, but it appears it will live on in perpetuity.
State Office of Risk Management (reduction)
Validation: Administration costs equal 10% of claims paid. Administration costs need to be reduced to provide the cost savings.
Colonias Initiative (eliminate)
Validation: The Texas Secretary of State administers this program to promote services in areas typically inhabited by illegal immigrants.
Office of State-Federal Relations (eliminate)
Validation: Texas has two United States Senators and thirty-two United States Representatives to represent us in Washington. This program assumes they aren’t able to represent Texas properly.
HIV/STD and Hepatitis C awareness (eliminate)
Validation: Resources are already available through schools, doctor’s offices and health clinics.
TB, Hansen’s and Refugee Health (eliminate)
Validation: These programs were created when tuberculosis and leprosy were a greater threat than they currently are.
Zoonotic diseases (eliminate)
Validation: Persons who work with animals should be personally responsible for preventing themselves from contracting diseases from those animals.
Abstinence education (eliminate)
Validation: This is a family education issue, not one to be mandated in public schools.
Substance abuse prevention and intervention (eliminate)
Validation: Substance abuse is illegal, still persons make the choice to violate the law. Information about substance abuse is widely available without state government spending.
The Student Success Initiatives (eliminate)
Validation: This initiative financially rewards failure in schools. There is sufficient funding for such programs in the Foundation School Program.
School Improvement and Support Programs (eliminate)
Validation: This initiative should be a constant under regular programs. There is sufficient funding for such programs in the Foundation School Program.
Educational Technology (eliminate)
Validation: The term “technology” is often used as an excuse to spend more government money. This program is not a departure from that movement.
Regional Education Service Centers (eliminate general revenue funding)
Validation: These centers are private businesses that are highly subsidized by the state.
Fifth Year Accounting Students (eliminate)
Validation: The accounting industry is healthy and graduates often well paid upon graduation. There is no reason accounting students need a subsidy more than students of any other subject.
Close the Gaps – Research (eliminate)
Validation: There is sufficient money available through private funds and the federal government.
Close the Gaps – Quality/Participation (eliminate)
Validation: Special funding for junior colleges that have redundant appropriations in other areas of the budget.
Special Item Support (eliminate)
Validation: Specialized programs at many universities that have little to do with education. Items such as economic development should not compete for our critical education dollars. These programs seem to encourage universities to create spending programs for the sake of spending money.
Public Integrity Unit – Travis County (eliminate)
Validation: Public officials can be investigated and prosecuted anywhere in the state. However, only the Travis County District Attorney receives state funding.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (eliminate)
Validation: This agency was created just after the repeal of prohibition, and is no longer necessary. The functions of the TABC are covered by other law enforcement agencies and thus should be folded into those agencies.
Local Park Grants (eliminate)
Validation: It is the responsibility of local governments to fund construction and maintenance of local parks,not stte government.
Promote LP Gas Usage (eliminate)
Validation: LP Gas companies are much more capable and positioned to promote their business than the state.
Office of Rural Community Affairs (Merge with another agency; save general revenue funds
Validation: This office should be merged back into the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to save general revenues.
Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (eliminate)
Validation: Competition regulates the industry and individuals benefit from attractive rates. There is no need for government interference in consumer choice.
Funeral Service Commission (eliminate)
Validation: De-regulate the funeral industry and eliminate the agency that limits competition and consumer choice.
Board of Professional Geoscientists (eliminate)
Validation: The agency limits competition and consumer choice and there is little evidence the agency was or is necessary.
Department of Insurance (eliminate certain programs)
Validation: De-regulation would reduce insurance costs and be good for consumers. Funding to investigate fraud is still critical.
Loss Control Programs (eliminate)
Validation: Government should encourage private businesses to build sturdy structures, it should require those businesses to bear all the risks.
Senator Patrick has authored SB 1190, which would create a Texas Spending Commission to find waste, fraud and abuse in state government. The commission, modeled after President Reagan’s Grace Commission, would have audit powers over state agencies so they could report to the Legislature ways to cut spending.
Editor’s note: The Senate’s budget (with the above spending) passed by a vote 26-5. Senator Patrick voted against the budget.
Editor’s Note: This is the real editor. The italicized language, above, is part of Senator Patrick’s press release.