AP’s Jay Root broke the story, which has been picked up by Business Week, yahoo.com, and the International Business Times, among others. The lead says it all: 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. Here are the details of the renovation: * $30,600 for antique wood * new carpet * two new TVs * food service improvements (What does this mean? Maybe an elevator to make it easier for the lobby to deliver the goodies?) * electrical and plumbing upgrades Why is this project taking place now? House accountant Steve Adrian said state representatives have long complained that their private lounge, located just off the House floor, was shabby in comparison to the one state senators have …. “We always get remarks that the Senate has a nicer one than they do,” Adrian said. “We’re trying to update ours as well.” Watchdog groups are shocked, shocked, that the House would opt for luxury in hard times: “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.” Up to this point, the story is just routine, if delicious, “gotcha” journalism. There is nothing wrong with spiffing up the lounge before the session. It does not involve any new tax dollars; the money has already been appropriated. Craddick’s office should have just said, Yes, that’s what we’re doing, it hasn’t been done in [fill in the blank] years, the speaker thinks it’s important. That isn’t what happened. According to AP: Craddick’s office said the project is being coordinated by state Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, chairman of the House Administration committee. Goolsby, as everyone who keeps up with the race for control of the House knows, is fighting for his political life. He has been targeted by the Democrats. He didn’t need to have his name mentioned prominently in this story. But Craddick’s office laid off the responsibility on him: “This is not our project,” Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee said. “The funds used to pay for the renovation will come from unexpended balances from the House appropriation. They can only be used for House purposes. What they decide to do with that money is up to them.” Inevitably, Root sought out Goolsby for a comment, and Goolsby obliged: Goolsby said he hadn’t kept up with it because he’s been too focused on his political survival in a district where supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama — and presumably Goolsby’s opponent Carol Kent — are highly energized. “This is the only job I’ve got, and I’m trying to save it,” Goolsby said. “Obama’s got people coming from the rafters.” [A different version of Goolsby’s comment appears in Business Week:] “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.” It sure looks to me that Craddick threw Goolsby under the bus. [Capitol Annex posted a report on the AP story yesterday.]
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