Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How Texas' Sunset process works

"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.
Proverbs 20:21

We've been meaning to look into the Sunset process for a couple weeks, but Sarah Rumpf beat us to the punch:
AUSTIN, Texas -- As part of the preparation for the 84th Legislative Session, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, a twelve-member legislative commission that reviews Texas agencies for waste, duplication, and inefficiency, began its first round of public hearings on Wednesday, to continue through Thursday. Approximately 130 agencies are subject to Sunset Commission review, generally every twelve years, although the Legislature can change an agency's Sunset date to a longer or shorter time. About 20 to 30 agencies go through this review every two years. Agencies subject to Sunset review face expiration if they do not receive legislative reauthorization at the end of their review period.

This reversal of the traditional government budgeting process -- instead of an agency's current budget being used as the baseline for calculating the future budget, the agency has to convince lawmakers that they should be allowed to continue to exist at all -- is viewed as adding an additional layer of accountability and fiscal restraint to the budgeting process. According to the Sunset Commission, since they were launched in 1977, 37 agencies have been completely abolished and an additional 42 were abolished and certain functions transferred to other existing or newly created agencies. This has saved Texas taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. A fiscal review of the Sunset Commission from 1982 to 2013 showed that their work had saved approximately $945.6 million, and their operational expenses had totaled about $37.2 million, resulting in a return of about $25 for every dollar spent by the Sunset Commission.


This week's hearings will include testimony from select agencies on Wednesday, followed by public testimony on Thursday. Agencies up for consideration include the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, the Texas Health Services Authority, the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Texas Education Agency (includes State Board for Educator Certification).
 Read the whole thing here.

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