The country may be in an official recession, and tax revenues may be plummeting, but nothing ever stops Texas legislators from pampering themselves. As reported in the Dallas Morning News, the Texas House of Representatives is in the process of spending $140,000 for renovations to the members-only (no public riffraff allowed) lounge in the Capitol. Here are excerpts from the story:
The records reveal new details about the lounge renovation, which comes at the same time Gov. Rick Perry has asked state agencies to “dial back their spending.” It also comes as House GOP members, led by Speaker Tom Craddick, have retired to the Lost Pines Resort and Spa for two days of strategizing with lobbyists paying up to $25,000 each to join in.
The records also shed no new light on who is in charge of this project. House Accountant Steve Adrian said “no particular person” initiated the renovation idea.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy for legislators to be out spending money feathering their lounge when everybody else has to cut back,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen. “There’s no more classic definition of a private club than that part of our capitol.”
In October, Perry wrote agency heads – but not the Legislature, which operates independently of the executive branch – that “as stewards of public dollars, we must remain fiscally responsible and continue to put taxpayers first by finding ways to curtail state spending.”
The day that order went out, House officials were making plans to buy kitchen appliances and countertops, and over the next few weeks they purchased thousands of dollars worth of equipment and furnishings, such as:
- Custom wood cabinets with granite countertops and backsplash, $61,200
- A Scotsman Touchfree air-cooled flake ice maker, $3,425.
- Sub-zero freezer drawers, $3,517
- Hatco built-in warming drawers, $2,749
- Two Sharp 42-inch LCD TVs, $2,198
- Two undercounter refrigerators, $2,019
- Stainless Bunn-O-Matic coffee brewer, $600
Under the Texas government code, the State Preservation Board must “approve all changes to the buildings and their grounds.” Preservation Board officials could not immediately answer Tuesday whether any modifications had been pre-approved by the board, which hasn’t met publicly since Feb. 1, 2007.