state budget

Harvest of the skinflint

Mar 3, 2015 By R.G. Ratcliffe

When adjusted for population growth and inflation, state spending has remained almost flat since 1994. Is there a price for such frugality?

Sneak Attack on Public Integrity Unit?

Mar 31, 2011 By Nate Blakeslee

Buried in the four-inch stack of amendments to the house budget bill is a subtly crafted ambush on the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. This is the outfit that investigates corruption cases involving public officials, the most famous of which in recent memory was Ronnie Earle’s dogged pursuit of Tom Delay in the TRMPAC case. Earle has moved on, but Republicans haven’t forgiven or forgotten. This session, Arlington Republican Bill Zedler filed a bill (HB 1928) seeking to move the unit out of the Travis County D.A.’s office and into the Attorney General’s office, which is to say, out of Democratic control and into Republican-held territory. Similar efforts in previous sessions went nowhere, and Zedler’s bill has yet to get a hearing. But he may not need one to get the revenge Republicans have been seeking. That’s because one of Zedler's proposed HB 1 amendments, a seemingly simple half-page item (on page 251 of the stack) moving funding for the Public Integrity Unit over to the AG’s office, contains what appears to be a cleverly couched sneak attack.

Pre-filed amendments to budget bills set the stage for culture wars on spending

Mar 30, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

The next several days of Texas House budget debate may be as much about the culture wars as state spending. Pre-filed amendments to the three budget-related bills before the House contain limitations on private school vouchers, funding for Planned Parenthood and directives to higher education to fund centers for traditional family values if they provide funding for support centers for gay students. Debate is set to begin Thursday on House Bill 4 to erase a deficit in the current budget and on House Bill 275 to take $3.2 billion out of the state's so-called rainy day fund. Debate is set for Friday and into the weekend on House Bill 1, a bare bones spending plan for the next two years. Some of the pre-filed amendments may never be debated because there is a possibility that they are not procedurally proper for an appropriations bill. But they do show state spending is about more than just spending – or in this case cutting.

R.G.’s Take: What the Lean House Budget Bill Means for State Employees

Mar 28, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

(Editor’s note: Every week, for the remainder of the legislative session, BurkaBlog will be publishing an original column by R.G. Ratcliffe, who was the state political reporter for the Houston Chronicle for twenty years. During those two decades, I’ve known R.G., who resigned from the Chronicle in February to work on a book, to be one of the most trusted voices in the Capitol press corps. I’m thrilled to have him posting here. His columns will offer a deeper take on one of the week’s top stories. –P.B.) This session’s budget crunch has turned into a twisted episode of "The Biggest Loser," the reality television show in which overweight contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight. At the Capitol, the question is, which parts of our state budget will lose the most money in the plans being floated to bridge the $27 billion shortfall. Who will be our biggest loser? Most of the attention has been on teachers, children, and the elderly in nursing homes. Rallies at the capitol and heavy coverage on the nightly news about the impending disaster these groups could face from state cuts have put them at the forefront of the debate. But as the House prepares to vote on a bare bones available-revenue-only proposal next week, there’s another, more often overlooked contestant on the show—Texas’ 154,000 state employees, many of whom could face effective wage cuts of up to 40 percent under current Texas budget plans. Who are these folks? Well, they are child protection caseworkers, prison guards, tax auditors and rank and file bureaucrats. They work for the government. In a staunchly fiscal conservative, Tea Party world, these employees are often viewed skeptically.