A suggestion for the Texas Budget

I understand that revenue is really down this year from previous levels and I was still really surprised to see how deep the proposed budget cuts into corrections facilities and staff. It seems to me that this is a really bad idea, but I have an alternative suggestion. If we put a moratorium on executions for this biennium, we could take the money that we would save on expensive execution drugs and shift that to facilities and staff. There are several reasons why I think this is a good idea.

  1. I see in the Austin American-Stateman this morning that the source for one of the key drugs is halting production permanently. A de facto moratorium might be unavoidable in any case.
  2. One of the corrections cuts was for inmate healthcare which could put the state in jeopardy of civil liability and actually be more expensive in the long run. Given a choice between saving people’s lives and ending people’s lives, a modern state ought to fall on the side of saving lives.
  3. A moritorium would be more palatable to the Republican majority (both in the Legislature and the general public) than an outright repeal.
  4. A moritorium would also provide extra time to determine if any of the inmates on Death Row are actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted of.
  5. A moritorium on executions would actually cause very little direct harm since most convicted of capital crimes spend several years waiting on Death Row anyway.

In summary, I feel that a temporary cut to the execution budget makes much more sense than cutting inmate health care, cutting corrections staff, or reducing the number of available beds. In a time of fiscal crisis, killing people is probably not the highest and best purpose for our tax dollars. As a matter of fact it may be true, fiscal crisis or not, but it may be easier to see and accept in such times.

I am sure there are similar trade-offs that could be made elsewhere in the budget. For instance, perhaps there is some higher goal that would be better served by $10,000/mo than the Governor’s living quarters.


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