April 01, 2004
Will he or won't he?

Is Governor Perry about to call a special session on school finance reform for later this month? The DMN says Yes.

The long-awaited special legislative session on school finance will begin later this month probably on April 19 according to Capitol sources who said that Gov. Rick Perry has made up his mind to convene the session.

No starting date has been set by the governor, but his aides have concluded the session should start after the Easter weekend and the primary runoff on April 13.

A spokeswoman for the governor said a decision has not yet been made on the date lawmakers will be summoned to Austin.

The governor continues to work on building the consensus needed to call a special session this spring," said Kathy Walt, the governor's press secretary.

While Mr. Perry has said he wants consensus by legislative leaders on a proposal to fix the troubled funding system, that consensus will be on broad goals rather than a specific plan, noted one Capitol staffer familiar with discussions among state leaders.

The governor is still pitching a limited school finance proposal that would end "Robin Hood" sharing of property taxes by splitting property tax rolls so that business and commercial property is taxed by the state while residential property continues to be taxed by school districts. Leading business groups, including the Texas Association of Business, are opposed to the idea.

In addition, Mr. Perry favors a slight property tax cut for homeowners and raising new money for schools through an increase in the state cigarette tax, legalization of video gambling machines at racetracks and closing of a loophole in the business franchise tax. His proposal would use the additional revenue to create new financial incentives for schools.

The Governor's office says No. Sort of, anyway.

AUSTIN - A spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry denied today that an April special session of the legislature would be called this week to overhaul Texas' school financing system.

Gubernatorial spokesman Robert Black said an Associated Press story quoting unnamed sources is incorrect.

"The governor is not calling a special session today, nor does he have any intention of calling one this week," Black said.

Black said no decision has been made on calling a session, much less what dates in April would be the starting point if the session is called.

According to the Associated Press sources, however, Perry has told Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick that he will announce this week a special legislative session in mid-April.

Black declined to deny to AP that Perry made those comments to Dewhurst and Craddick.

"I'm not privy to his conversations,'' said spokesman Robert Black. "The governor speaks with the speaker and lieutenant governor these days literally on a daily basis.''

As denials go, that one isn't very strong. It's already Thursday, so the fact that he doesn't have "any intention of calling one this week" doesn't exactly ring in one's ears. I'd say this moves the odds of a session getting called soon in the 60-70% range. Hold on tight, it's gonna get bumpy.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 01, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack