Greetings from… Margaritaville!

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Reporting by R.S. Gates, Story by The Legendary Jim Parks

It was an adroit move on the part of the McLennan County Commissioners Court, this thing of an historic tax raise to cover increased expenses for the care and feeding of prisoners at the County Jail, courtroom security, and a thousand and one other details.

Something that slipped through without any notice – a part of the ‘fluff’ that Tea Party watchdogs often complain of – was the 19th District Court Reporter’s trip to “Margaritaville.”

No, it’s not down on some funky island in the Caribbean named for an obscure French saint, nor is it on an isolated stretch of coastline in Central America, a volcanic paradise overshadowed by towering mountains, bordered by blinding white sugar sands, and bounded just offshore by a fabulous system of coral reefs. This is definitely not the kind of place on the edge of the jungle where some colorful soldier of fortune has laid a plank across two oil drums and pours out the rum, vodka and whiskey each day come tea time.

This is a planned expanse account destination development in the wilds of the Red River bottoms at Bossier City – Louisiana – the best corporate America has to offer and the outfit has a mojo budget to bribe the Texian legislators to keep on voting against legalized gambling – that is, in the Lone Star state. Yeah, that Margaritaville, where rooms cost $259 dollars a night, a cool $159 more than the c-note the county’s travel policy allows.

It’s a long story, but we will try to sum it up in a few brief paragraphs because, hey, that’s where your money goes, folks, clean as a whistle.

And there’s really nothing new about it.

In fact, the venerable pioneering GOP member of the Texas House of Representatives, M.A. Taylor, once recalled that during his freshman term, he jerked the phone up and called The Honorable Bobby Bullock, then State Comptroller. He asked, “Bullock, which ones of these state department heads rush to spend up all they money they have budgeted, so they can go back to the well for more?”

Bullock laughed the obligatory equine snort, according to Rep. Taylor, and replied, “Well, that question will be real easy to answer, Brother Taylor.” He paused for effect. “They ALL do it!”

And so it came to pass that in addition to the stress of taking down every word that is said in the ultra-busy 19th Criminal District Court, a venue where Judge Ralph T. Strother is often at pains to remind witnesses that they must utter actual words such as “Yes,” and “No,” and not just nod their heads when they give their answers, Court Reporter Michelle Karr was called upon to make a transcript of the capital murder trial of Albert Love, a young man recently convicted of the killing of two dope gang members as they sat in a ghetto parking lot smoking a “black and mild.”

Those who are so convicted get an automatic appeal, and it takes an original and two copies to get the higher court reviews necessary to carry out the sentence, be it death, life with no possibility of parole, or any other permutation available to jurors.

The price: $58,954.50. That’s in addition to her annual salary of $74,035.

To cover the extra cost requires an additional $38,955 from a contingency fund, which the Commissioners Court readily approved.

And then, there’s the need for continuing education in that profession, a requirement that is met at various professional development conferences. This year, the Court Reporters chose to address “Managing the Chaos of Court Reporting.”

This clambake will be held at – you guessed it – Margaritaville! Along the tranquil banks and in the bayous of the Red River at – of all places – Bossier City, Louisiana, where zee slots are, how you call, liberal, and zee dice, they are some kinda hot, hot, ami.

So, where did the money come from?

This is not like a corporate bond fund, you see. You are not locked into spending every dime you raise through taxes. You can let a certain amount accumulate, year to year, but it’s limited to a certain margin, and it doesn’t really matter what the margin is because, guess what, they never reach it. Ever.

Our man on the scene, R.S. Gates, says, “They paid it with their little slush fund. That’s where it came from.” He goes on to explain the politics of tax increases and the avoidance of roll-back voter approval elections in this way.

One restraint on spend happy government officials is the Roll Back. If a taxing entity raises the “TAX RATE” above a specified amount, the voters automatically get to hold an election. They use tax rate as a semantic diversion. It is a slightly different method to arrive at how much they are going to spend. The reason voters get a say so about the tax rate rather than the BUDGET is the framers thought this would be more restrictive on government. The roll back rate for tax purposes is some arbitrary percentage of increase governed by the government code or the charter. If the tax rate is increased more than that amount, say 5%, it goes to a vote. What it all boils down to is HOW MUCH STINKING MONEY THEY HAVE TO SPEND. In the case of McLennan County Commissioners, they voted to take the maximum amount of taxes from taxpayers they were allowed to by law without having their decision subject to voter approval.”

Simple enough. What’s more, it works – every time. Gates ought to know. He is a co-founder of the Waco Tea Party, a man living with the ignominy of having been purged from the ranks of that watchdog group over his outspoken criticism of the ways of officials who are so adept at tax and spend tactics.

He is now an outspoken lone wolf, a tea pot, short and stout, with no base upon which he may rest, a singleton dawg on the prairie, howling at the moon over the things he sees and with which he feels copious disapproval.

There are worse fates.

– The Legendary

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