Senate Finance Committee Gets Early Start on Budget
AUSTIN - One of the things the Texas Legislature is constitutionally required to do when it meets every two years is to pass a state budget. Today, September 13, 2004, the Senate Committee on Finance got an early start on that task. "We are embarking on our preparations to write the state budget", began Chairman Steve Ogden. He said that one of the purposes for beginning these hearings in September was so that the members would have more opportunity to ask questions about all aspects of the agencies' operations, not just how they spend money.
Meeting today and tomorrow, the committee began hearing budget requests from eighteen separate state agencies. Most of those coming before the committee this week are regulatory agencies such as The State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and The Texas Department of Banking.
Some of the agencies involved today, such as the Cosmetology Commission and the Board of Barber examiners, have been marked by the Sunset Advisory Commission as targets for consolidation into single agencies in an effort to save money. Senator Gonzalo Barrientos said that had been tried before and had generated as much mail and as many phone calls as any other issue he had ever faced.
Many state agencies have been asked by the Governor's office to cut their budget by five percent. The Barber Board, for example, said that this would mean the loss of one inspector meaning that the board could no longer inspect each shop once a year. Other agencies testifying today told similar stories.
Others, such as the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists described how they were saving money by offering services such as online license renewal. Also joining the Geoscientists in offering online renewal were the Board of Pharmacy and several other agencies.
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 with its next meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 9:00 A.M.