Friday, March 27, 2009

What the ETF?

The announcement from the governors office was probably meant to evoke a commitment for Texas to lead the nation in medical research and higher education.

Instead, the governor's announcement of a $50 million grant to create the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM) at Texas A&M System has become his blunder of the week. Governor Perry's press release tried to generate excitement about this new laboratory:
The center will be an international destination for research and development of medications to combat diseases such as cancer, diabetes and influenza, and will serve as a model for future national facilities that will protect the nation from bio-terror threats and attacks.

“There is no question that the biotechnology industry is essential to developing products that can improve and save lives, and Texas is working to foster continued growth of this industry within the state,” said Gov. Perry. “I want Texas to be the place where innovative ideas can go from the lab room to the marketplace and this ETF investment will play an important role in bridging that gap. The development of this center will bring Texas to the forefront of the international stage of disease and biotechnology research and drug manufacturing.”

Hold the presses. What is this ETF the governor speaks of. His press release explained that:

The ETF is a $200 million initiative created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 at the governor’s request and was reauthorized in 2007. A 17-member advisory committee of high-tech leaders, entrepreneurs and research experts reviews potential projects and recommends funding allocations to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.

For more information on the ETF, please visit
The Emergency Technology Fund (ETF) seems to catch Texas lawmakers off guard. The Austin American Statesman reported in an article today by Jason Embry and Ken Herman about the firestorm brewing over the use of ETF funding:
When Gov. Rick Perry and two other state leaders gave the Texas A&M University System $50 million for a new research facility in January, they did not seek approval from a 17-member panel that usually advises them on such decisions.

Perry moved the $50 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, which the state uses to attract businesses, to the Emerging Technology Fund, which often pays for universities to partner with the private sector on technology-related projects. With the required approval from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and then-House Speaker Tom Craddick, Perry then awarded the money to the Texas A&M system for a facility for vaccine and drug-therapy research.

Perry aides had indicated previously that the advisory panel had signed off on the grant. Governor's office officials said Thursday that they misspoke.

Some lawmakers have long called for more oversight of the funds, and the grant has drawn scrutiny this week from state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. Pitts said he hopes to put language in the state budget that would prevent the governor from making similar transfers in the future. He said testimony from Perry aides in his committee led him to believe the advisory panel had signed off on the grant.

"Don't like it," Pitts said.

He said he plans to ask Perry aides more questions about the project when his committee meets today.

The 17-member panel usually recommends an Emerging Technology Fund project before the three state leaders sign off on it. But Perry did not seek the full panel's input on the project for the A&M system. Because the dollars started in the Enterprise Fund — and because Enterprise projects are not subject to the advisory panel — the full panel did not weigh in, said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Perry.

"The 17-member committee is advisory in nature and has no fiduciary role in the program, nor is their favorable recommendation required," Castle said.

So basically, its Perry "the Aggie" vs. the Legislature on this one. For someone that has declared his intent to be re-elected, this bad press can't be good. Who's running Ricks strategy?!? Must be an Aggie.


Anonymous said...

I would be careful pointing out nepotism on the Rick Perry front. Kind of funny coming from a lifelong politician. Nepotism has always been part of the politics game from all sides and it would easy to find this in any politicians history.

ColoVista Guy said...

I wouldn't call liberal Republican Pitts "the legislature." He is a pariah among his colleagues in the GOP caucus. He has more allies among the Jim Dunnam crowd than anywhere else.

He has an axe to grind, and reporters fell for his schtick. A lot of people don't like these kinds of government-run economic development funds on principle, but for a KBH supporter to raise a fuss and make it personal just reeks of petty gotcha politics. If the idea is to attack the concept of the ETF, let's hear it. Instead, all we hear is trumped up scandalmongering and shady but completely unfounded insinuations.

Anonymous said...

Stupid aggies