The Texas House on Friday voted to buy an unused West Texas prison for $19.5 million, brushing aside growing criticism that the state has 12,000 empty prison beds and is wasting taxpayers’ money.
The decision to leave intact funding for the 1,100-bed Jones County lockup is expected to set up a showdown with Senate leaders, who have openly criticized the House as engaging in pork barrel politics.
The House approved the purchase in House Bill 1025, a supplemental appropriations measure, by a 129-9 vote.From the story, it sounds like Rep. Sylvester Turner, who's on the conference committee, isn't a fan of the Jones County unit, and Chairman Pitts is open to omitting excess capacity from the "final version." If Senate conferees stick to their guns - and with John Whitmire among conferees, you'd expect them to - there's a decent, bettor's chance Texas may end up closing units this time instead of pointlessly expanding capacity, as the House has suggested. Here are the lists of House and Senate budget conferees, respectively:
“We’ll look forward to a discussion with the Senate,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. “This is just putting it out there for discussion. This is not the final version of the bill.”
- House: Pitts, Crownover, Otto, S. Turner, Zerwas
- Senate: Williams, Duncan, Hinojosa, Nelson, Whitmire
MORE: In another story by Mike Ward on related subjects, he quotes Sen. John Whitmire succinctly summing up the conflict on prisons between the upper and lower chambers. “The people in the House who are for buying a prison we don’t need, and are for keeping two existing prisons open that we don’t need, are the same tea party, fiscal conservatives who campaigned for less government and cutting wasteful spending,” he said. “Everyone wants to cut government waste, but it’s very hard to shut down anything.”
AND MORE (4/29): Patti Hart reported that John Whimire is "irate" over the House's decision to purchase the Jones County facility, and I can understand why. That said, if Chairman Whitmire were "irate" nearly as often as the MSM portray him that way the poor man would surely have suffered a coronary by now. Still, the starting position of the House on prisons in the budget is certainly insensible and frustrating. Where are all the small-government budget cutters when you need them?