Geoff Pender: Budget hearing or grudge match?

Normally a large spending request from K-12 education, or a projected $77 million shortfall for Medicaid, or $22.4 million for corrections would dominate the High Street chatter around the annual legislative budget hearings.

But the buzz about last week’s hearings centers on the Curious Case of the Flubbed Department of Public Safety Budget Request. It was a remarkably weird event highlighted by long, awk-waaaard moments of silence while DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz and the key lawmakers who set his budget scowled at each other.

At the heart of the incident was that Santa Cruz and the handful of his department folks he brought were unprepared Wednesday to make their pitch for a $32 million, or 46 percent, budget increase.

But, to paraphrase a line from “Casablanca,” you may be shocked — shocked — to learn there might be some politics going on here as well.

Clarion Ledger
9/21/13