Senate Finance Committee Continues Examining Agency Requests
(AUSTIN) - The Senate Finance Committee continued its early examination of state agency budgets that will be approved by the Legislature during the session that begins in January. Governor Rick Perry had earlier asked state agencies to cut their budgets an additional five percent. On September 14, 2004, the committee members once again heard about the effects of those proposed cuts from fifteen agencies as diverse as the Texas Cancer Council and the Department of Public Safety.
The first witness was Kim Edwards, Executive Director of the Texas Public Finance Authority. She said that in order to meet the 95% funding level, there would have to be salary cuts for staff, in addition to reductions in information technology purchases as well as other repairs and replacements. The Authority was created in 1984 by an act of the Texas Legislature to provide financing for the construction or acquisition of office buildings for State agencies.
Larry Olson from the Texas Department of Information Resources predicted that his agency could save more than $270 million dollars over the next five years by purchasing computers in volume for various state agencies. Frederick Rowe of the Pension Review Board warned the committee that with low returns from interest rates and the stock market, and with government employees growing older, a number of cities are facing heavy demands on their pension plans. He urged governments to be open with the press so that correct information about the various pension funds is reported and said that his agency needed a staff increase in order to do a thorough job of auditing these funds. Chairman Steve Ogden noted that the state and teachers' retirement systems faced similar funding challenges, saying "I think it's pretty terrifying."
Among the other agencies with representatives before the committee today were the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Juvenile Probation Commission and the Department of Public Safety.
The Senate Committee on Finance is chaired by Senator Steve Ogden. The Vice-Chair is Senator Judith Zaffirini. Members include Senators Kip Averitt, Gonzalo Barrientos, Kim Brimer, Bob Deuell, Robert Duncan, Kyle Janek, Jane Nelson, Florence Shapiro, Eliot Shapleigh, Todd Staples, Royce West, John Whitmire and Tommy Williams. The Committee recessed subject to call of the chair.
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To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0556 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org.