Who wants to be the ruling couple of earmarks in Texas? What first family of waste would build a Texas-size bridge to nowhere? Behold the heftiest of the special-interest spenders: State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) and State Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). She wants to spend your money big, while he spreads it thick.
Looking through the House budget adopted in the early morning hours of Saturday, it appears the reigning couple of pork inserted to Article XI, without a vote or debate, nearly $100 million of special interest spending to happen if extra revenues come available during the biennium.
Dukes likes big and flashy. She stuck $75.5 million in for “community care services.” Do you feel cared for by big government? Don’t tell Dawnna, or she’ll want to enlarge the line item.
On the other hand, Gallego took a “spread the (your) wealth” approach. He led the House in the number of pet projects seeking taxpayer funding – to the tune of $20 million.
He’s giving $100,000 to Sul Ross University. But that is separate from another $100,00 for the “Center for Big Bend Studies” at Sul Ross. Oh, and he is giving a third $100,000 to the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross. See a trend?
He also put in an earmark of $5 million to the city of Uvalde for a “safe way to school” program. To the city? Okay…
Gallego also very generously wants $3 million from your wallet to fund the construction of a combined Department of Public Safety/Parks & Wildlife/Department of Transportation facility in Marfa. Let’s not forget the “not less than $3 million” he put in for to build a TxDOT facility in Alpine, just 26 miles away.
But the real money comes in the form of the $6 million pool and recreation center he wants you to build in Presidio County (population of 7,575). That’s $800 per resident; that pool better have an awesome slide.
Whether it happens in Washington or Austin, politically-directed earmarks are bad public policy. That the process lets items like these get in without debating their merits, or a vote of the Legislature, is even worse.
In the meantime, if you happen to see Pete or Dawnna, be sure to bow before their Porkfulness. But keep your wallet hidden; they may have something else they want you to fund.