Most Texans have probably not heard of Ursula Parks. Or of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), of which she is the director. But, her retirement at the end of October will undoubtedly lead to more chaos and delays when the legislature meets in January.
As outlined by the Texas Tribune, Parks’ retirement represents “a new kink in the preparation of the state’s next two-year budget. The LBB has played the part of the rope in a fierce tug-of-war between the House and the Senate.”
The LBB’s website describes it as “a permanent joint committee of the Texas Legislature that develops budget and policy recommendations for legislative appropriations, completes fiscal analyses for proposed legislation, and conducts evaluations and reviews to improve the efficiency and performance of state and local operations.”
The Tribune notes that the LBB has been used by both chambers, along with the Governor’s office, in a series of battles among them. The LBB pushed back on Gov. Abbott’s extension of vetoes to eliminate budget items which are usually protected from a veto. When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told the LBB “not to publish its biennial report on how to make the government more effective and efficient,” House Speaker Joe Straus asked Parks to publish the information that goes into the report. In the current budget, the Senate “decided not to fund its half of the cost of the LBB,” according to the Tribune.
Recently, there was also controversy around the publication of the Fiscal Size-Up, the LBB’s simplified analysis of the state budget, according to the Tribune. House and Senate leaders disagreed about the section of the analysis covering “how the state’s share of public education spending has dropped while the local share has climbed.”
The Tribune notes that, along with a soon-to-be leaderless LBB, right now there are no heads of the State Auditor’s Office or the Sunset Advisory Commission, and there is no House Appropriations Committee. Adding the absence of a director of the LBB to this impressive list will mean January’s legislative session should have more chaos than even Texas is used to. Grab your popcorn.