On Tuesday afternoon the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing where they hotly debated the strategy and funding of Governor Perry’s troop surge along the border.
It turns out Perry has what is essentially a blank check via a budget rider that gives the Governor enormous leeway to use at his own discretion.
In his 14th year in office Perry is challenging the notion that Texas has a weak Governorship by enacting his own de facto foreign policy.
See Perry’s latest attack ad and the text of the ryder below the jump…How can it be that Gov. Perry has been on a full frontal attack on the Obama administration for what it calls a “power hungry, oppressive” behavior when he is acting unilaterally and without legislative approval?
Senator Wendy Davis has repeatedly requested that the Governor call a special session to discuss and appropriately fund any actions that should be taken at the border. Other Senators who represent the border region have questioned the Governor’s wisdom in activating National Guard troops. This all the while he has also been criticized from many border community members, business leaders, law enforcement officers and other elected officials.
Rick Perry did nothing illegal and the blank check is really more about what can be done with the funds than the idea that they are unlimited. He chose to bypass getting legislative approval for sending and funding National Guard troops to the border because it was an “emergency.”
Ursula Parks the Director of the Legislative Budget Board testified on the “unusual mechanism” saying that “no other mechanism provides for money leaving the treasury save by legislative action.” [at 2:35:00]
When Mike Morrissey, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Perry’s office, was questioned at the finance hearing about Perry’s unilateral actions, he told Senators the Governor felt he needed to act immediately and couldn’t wait on duly elected legislators to appropriate money.
Perry was able to execute the troop surge through a budget rider in the Governor’s budget that allowed for him to declare an emergency and use funds from the Emergency Radio Infrastructure Fund (GOV’T CODE ANN. § 411.403) under DPS which can be “used for other public safety purposes.”
The rider which can be found on page I-59 of the budget reads:
2. Emergency and Deficiency and Disaster Grants. Contingent on transfer of appropriations for payments of claims arising prior to the convening of the next legislature by the Governor in accordance with §403.075, Government Code, for emergency use in accordance with §§401.061-401.065, Government Code, grants-in-aid in case of disasters, and for other purposes needed in the operations of state departments and agencies, including legal defense of officials and employees.Upon certification by the Governor that an emergency exists within the scope of the above-cited provisions in an agency funded out of special funds, there are hereby appropriated amounts necessary from special funds, including excess revenues above those estimated by the Comptroller in certifying this Act from General Revenue Fund-Dedicated accounts that were previously special funds, to meet the deficiency, emergency or disaster. The Comptroller of Public Accounts shall transfer from the special fund to the necessary appropriation account the amount certified as necessary to meet the deficiency, emergency, or disaster. Transfers made under this provision shall be made only when sufficient balances over appropriated amounts exist in the special fund.
The Governor may, according to the terms of the deficiency, emergency, or disaster award, require the agency to repay all or part of the award. The repayment may be accomplished by purchase voucher, journal entry, or other procedures established by the Governor’s Office with the concurrence of the Comptroller of Public Accounts.
According to the Texas Tribune, “National Guard and DPS costs will total $17 million to $18 million per month” and the Governor wants to go through the budget execution process with legislators to secure continued funds for the border operations.
The rider says the Governor “may” require any agency that receives these funds to pay them back, but Perry will likely continue to petition the federal government. By the looks of his new ad which his bold move provided the content for, maybe the state of Texas should bill Rick PAC instead.
To that point, Texas Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Lisa Paul questioned where the next batch of funds would come from, “maybe Presidential primary voters will give him the answer in New Hampshire or South Carolina.”
Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.
Watch the full hearing here.