...was interesting. Very long, but interesting.
Representative Jim Dunnam, the Committee Chair, did an excellent job of chairing this meeting. Everyone who wanted to be heard, had a chance at the mic. Rep. Dunnam also did a great job of explaining the proceedings and the issues at hand.
The meeting was to start at 1030, but that was just not possible. Many, many more people showed up than was anticipated and we had to wait a bit while they expanded the meeting room to make room for all of us. Even with expanding the room by another third, the Fire Marshal ended up turning some people away because we were over capacity. USCitizen from Traction Control and I did make it in.
The meeting started with a brief video presentation that was basically a bit of pro-stimulus propaganda.
After the video we jumped right in to public testimony. Organizations that were invited to testify went first. Several school districts, a few health care organizations, either the North Texas Tollway Authority or TXdot (I think it was TXdot, but I am not 100% sure. Much of the conversation focused on toll roads and toll roads that went by names other than toll roads), and a representative of the broadband internet companies. The broadband guy mentioned a quote that just pretty much stunned me. He stated something along the lines of "We have a social obligation that all have broadband internet access." The stimulus plan already allocates $6.5 Billion for expanding broadband internet access, to him that is not enough.
The best part of the day was the citizen testimony. Much of the citizen testimony focused on the $555 Million in unemployment benefits that Governor Perry turned down. Traction Control did a good job of explaining the strings that are attached to these funds, so I'll let you head on over there for that information. Much of the citizen testimony was emotional and most of it was very well done. The citizens took this opportunity to address the committee seriously and it showed. There were a few more people there asking that the legislature override Governor Perry and accept the $555 Million in unemployment benefits with the attached strings, even though the money would be spent in one month and the additional expenses that come with the strings will go on forever.
It was late in the day when it came to be my turn to testify. My testimony basically asked the committee to take great care with this money, not to treat it as 'found' money, but as money that we have borrowed from our children and grandchildren. I asked that they not fund any projects that would result in recurring legacy costs that would further increase our future tax burden. I made two copies of my testimony, one for the committee and one so I could publish it here. Somewhere between UTA and home I lost my copy. I will link to it when it is published on the committee web site.
Early in the day there were a dozen or so legislators up on the dais. Once the press left, the legislators started trickling out also. By the time it was my turn to testify, there were only two legislators left to hear me. The Committee Chair, Representative Jim Dunnam, and the Senator for my district, Senator Wendy Davis. Senator Davis is not a member of the committee, but she hung in there to the end. She was involved with the testimony, asked pertinent questions, and paid attention to all that was going on. I disagree with much of what Senator Davis stands for, but I am impressed with what she did today.
I walked out of the meeting at 1630, and testimony was still being heard. All written testimony will be published on the Texas Stimulus Fund website here.
We are going to have to keep a close eye on our legislators as they scurry to spend this money on their pet projects. We don't want them building facilities that we can not afford to staff.