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In Emails, Patrick's Office Did Not Object to Abbott Veto Memo

Emails released to the Tribune show Dan Patrick's budget guru raised no obvious objections while approving the release of a memo that the lieutenant governor is now railing against.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick signs bills on the last day of the 84th session June 1, 2015

In recent days, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has portrayed his office as vociferously against a memo that called into question the validity of some of Gov. Greg Abbott's line-item vetoes to the state budget.

But emails released to The Texas Tribune paint a somewhat different picture, showing that a top Patrick aide signed off Tuesday on the release of the memo without any objections to its findings. 

"All clear for distribution?" Ursula Parks, the executive director of the Legislative Budget Board, asked the budget gurus for both Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, attaching the memo. 

"We're fine with sending," replied Andrew Blifford, Straus' budget director.

"Agrer [sic]," replied Mike Morrissey, Patrick's budget director — a typo for "agree."

Asked Friday about the email exchanges, Patrick's office emphasized that Morrissey was not endorsing the content of the memo, but simply agreeing to its release.

"As we pointed out in our original statement, we were clear that we would not sign the letter but we agreed that the executive director had a right to send it if she insisted," Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia said in a statement. "In the context of the email correspondence that you are referring to, staff agreed with the 'distribution' of the letter since it did not imply any support from the lieutenant governor, as we had requested and as we clarified in our original statement."

The exchange — and others obtained through an open records request — do not directly contradict anything Patrick has claimed so far about his office's involvement in the memo. But the tone and content of the emails make no reference to any disagreement over the memo, which informed Comptroller Glenn Hegar that Abbott may have improperly used his line-item veto power to cut some $200 million from the spending plan.

For example, there was no visible drama a week ago when Blifford told Parks, copying Morrissey, that "our respective offices met today, and agree we'd like you to send the LBB staff's analysis of the vetoes to the Comptroller next week." 

Since the memo surfaced, Patrick has come to Abbott's defense, calling for a joint special committee to look into the LBB's practices. He has also made clear he did not believe the dispute warranted a letter to Hegar, and said whatever issues there were could be worked out during the interim, a point he stressed in a second statement on the dispute on Thursday. 

Straus' office, meanwhile, has maintained what was confirmed by the emails — that both the offices of the lieutenant governor and speaker instructed the board to give its analysis to Hegar. 

"My colleagues and I share Gov. Abbott's commitment to fiscal discipline and accountability in the Texas budget," Straus said in a statement Thursday. "The discussion that has been taking place about vetoes is about nothing more than the proper roles of the legislative and executive branches in the budget process."

Ross Ramsey contributed to this story. 

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State government 84th Legislative Session Dan Patrick Governor's Office Greg Abbott Texas Legislature