TX Sen Fi Digest 1/23/17

things the Texas Legislature is obligated to do:

pass a budget.

 

   and they get paid $7,200 each to do it–everything else is window dressing. sure, some people will tell you that legislative budget hearings are boring–those people are wrong. but they have the right to be wrong, we have a whole amendment for them to be wrong, wronger and wrongest all over the damn place. so strap in and let’s review the first week of the Senate Finance Committee.

day 1 : we don’t need no stinkin’ GEERs.

  if there is one hearing that you can usually count on being a complete fucking waste of time, it’s usually an organizational hearing. you go all the way down to the Pink Dome, wade through security, wait for the room to open after the class picture (okay, this one’s the not serious one!). they’ll be 20 minutes late, gavel in, vote YASSSS on the committee rules and gavel out. takes about 2 minutes. sometimes they drag it out by introducing their staff.

   Sen. Fi. isn’t a total waste as they spend about an hour hearing from LBB’s Executive Director, Ursula Parks, and, in years where there’s a shortfall, the Comptroller–currently played by Glenn Hegar. it’s all relatively ho-hum: Belle thinks about better titles for Ursula Parks (like “Queen L. B. Bee” submitted by one Cake Bo-Rap), the legislators pillow fight over whose staffer is better and Sen. Birdwell makes an ill-advised combat metaphor.

   not so this time! we’re in a budget shortfall and the Era of Post-Truth and the Age of Post-Fact and the Century of Alternative Fact–yes, ALL OF THEM, KATIE. what Belle is saying is that all bets are off. and those bets include Sen. Fi. not starting to hear testimony until after SOTS and the House having its committees appointed before SOTS. luckily for Belle, Belle is not a betting blog.

   first, two work groups were appointed on day 1. work groups always get named for the following: Articles I, IV & V; Article II; Article III; and Articles VI, VII, & VIII. you’ll hear about Article XI, but Belle wants you to hush now, there are other work groups like the ones on facilities and IT in 2015. regardless of whether they’re generic or brand name, these work groups are all appointed after all the testimony is heard. not so this year. we got a 1-2 punch of them on day 1!

   SEAL team work group one: address this Byzantine public school finance system. if you read the SCOT decision on school finance last year, you know that Justice Willett said to the lege “‘Byzantine’ would be generous.” and “FFS, I am not your dad and I don’t wanna be!” and also “would you nincompoops quit failing the childrens already!” both the house and the senate are (yay!) taking said decision as an indication that they’ll get a spankin’ if they don’t do anything. so they’re going to do something (yay^2!). but, don’t hold your breath, it’s early and we don’t yet know what the governor thinks is most important. the working group will look at a public school finance system which only an estimated 5 people out of the over 28 million Texans lying around understand and recommend something better–Belle dares say “something TERRIFIC”.

   SEAL team work group two: what’s with all these healthcare programs outside of Article II? as mentioned, healthcare has its own article in the General Appropriations Act and if #2 was any indication, it reminds most people of poop. however, there are several programs which are HHS’s cousins in other areas (like healthcare for teachers)–some that even leverage federal Medicaid funds (for jail prison birds). this committee has been tasked with adding all this stuff up, give it an ultrasound and abort any duplication.

 sidebar: Sen. Whitmire 

FY 2016-2017 tax cut total: $4.5 billion.

FY 2018-2019 projected budget shortfall: $4.5 billion.

let’s have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious work group to look into that!

by the way, I never got a thank you letter for that $10 a month we “saved” people.

   did someone want to alternative fact check Sen. Whitmire? oh, look, it’s Sen. Bettencourt! he says that everyone who testified in the Senate Select Snowflake Committee on Property Tax Relief and Reform White People’s Tears could be considered a thank you note. funny. Belle seems to remember a bunch of people bitching ’bout how the pomp and circumstance over it didn’t produce real relief and a ton of county judges saying, “what did you think would happen when you shoved the cost of indigent defense off on us?” Sen. Bettencourt has an awfully strange way to spell “thank you”.

   finally, Sen. West asked, “hey, were’s my copy of the GEER report?”

explain the GEER in 50 words or less:

GEER stands for “Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Report”.

it’s a compilation of recommendations for how to government better.

it’s helpful in finding cost savings to offset the cost of your pet program.

it’s absolutely vital during a budget shortfall.

wait, you mean the lege is expected to find 4% in budget cuts without their cheat sheet? whose bullshit idea was that?! Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Dannie Goeb, of course! and he wants another 1.5% in cuts on top of it! c’mon guys! it’ll be fun!

anyone tell Speaker Straus? well, then. let’s get ready to rumble!

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