November 10, 2008
With January’s legislation fast approaching and an expected state budget pinch expected to be Topic A, Austin state Sen. Kirk Watson says he intends to push for more “transparency” in the process.
He also wants to make the budget process focus more on Texas’ future greatness, not just its present.
“Texas is all about big things — big thinking, big size. It’s a big place,” Watson said in a speech this morning at the Bob Bullock State History Museum. “But the budget process is often used to stop big thinking.
“Bills with big fiscal notes (price tags) often never get a hearing … A fiscal note is often used as a reason not to discuss an issue. Too often we budget by fear and not by foresight.”
Watson said he intends to propose changes to allow for more public input into the budget process, by requiring open hearings to allow the public to know what is being proposed during the process, and not just after Senate and House leaders decide the details of the state’s budget. Too often in the past, those decisions have been made behind closed doors at the end of the legislative session, when deals are cut.
“Professional wrestling … may not be as fixed as the budget process,” Watson said.
Instead of a double-digit billion-dollar budget surplus, the senator said he expects it will be much less — thanks to “Hurricane Ike (which blasted Galveston and the Houston area), Hurricane Lehman Brothers (the national economic crisis that is expected to cut tax proceeds) and Hurricane Tax Shift,” (the business tax that is expected to bring in hundreds of millions less than expected).
Watson said he will push to ensure the budgeting process “is used to define the greatness of Texas” in future generations — by making the needed investments in education, health care, transportation, greener energy policies and other forward-looking issues that will ensure improved opportunities for future generations.”
“The question is: What are we doing for the next generation?” Watson said. “We should evaluate all bills that way.”