Governor Perry apparently wants to call that special session on school finance reform some time in mid-April. He also wants to have a consensus on how to proceed before calling the session. Right now, these two desires are at odds with each other.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday he hopes Gov. Rick Perry does not call a special session on school finance until there is consensus on a plan to cut property taxes and increase the state's share of funding.
"We're going to have to get into the details, sooner rather than later," Dewhurst told reporters after a speech to an educators' group.
Dewhurst said he does not know when Perry plans to start the session. But key lawmakers, including House Education Committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, have said they expect the session to begin mid-April.
Dewhurst also said the Senate wants significant property tax relief similar to the 50 percent reduction approved by the Senate last year in legislation that was not considered by the House.
"We want a permanent solution to school finance," said Dewhurst. "The last thing a lot of us want to do is go through a series of special sessions this year and next year."
Dewhurst said the plan the governor has talked about "seems to be an incremental plan in which local property tax relief is achieved over the years, provided there's a surplus."
Dewhurst said he thinks the House and Senate are close to an agreement on broadening the sales tax or business franchise tax to pay for major property tax reductions. But Perry has said he does not want a major tax bill.
A school funding proposal circulated by Gov. Rick Perry takes a gradual approach that's unacceptable to senators and unfair to property taxpayers who need quick relief, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday.
"There are some here in Austin who want to improve education incrementally between today and 2007. And I've got to ask why," Dewhurst told the 24th Annual Association of Texas Professional Educators State Convention.
"Our homeowners and our businesses need property tax relief today."
Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, told reporters later: "The Senate does not want to look at an incremental approach. We want a permanent solution to school finance."
He said Perry's proposal, which hasn't been publicly announced, appears incremental.
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said by phone that Dewhurst's assessment of the Senate position is "absolutely correct."
ewhurst said the additional property tax relief would occur under Perry's plan "provided that there's a surplus." Shapiro said it would depend on "a good, strong economy."
Dewhurst said he met with Perry on Friday morning. Shapiro said she hasn't spoken with Perry in three weeks.
"He (Perry) knows I am not supporting a split tax roll. He knows I want significant property tax relief," Shapiro said. "He knows that I'm looking at some of the things we did in the Senate as a model for what we want to do in the special session."
"I want to conclusively solve this once and for all," Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst's remarks to the educators group contrasts with a statement made last week by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, who said any fix to the school finance system should be phased in over the next four years.
Any major overhaul of the school finance would require an equally major overhaul of Texas' tax structure, especially the levies that target business and industry. Perry, who spoke at the same legislative conference where Heflin spoke, said he would be reluctant to make major adjustments to business taxes.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst insisted Friday that the Senate wants an overhaul of the state's troubled school finance system, putting himself at odds with the gradual fix being pushed by Gov. Rick Perry and others.
Mr. Dewhurst, signaling key differences with Mr. Perry as lawmakers prepare for a special session this month, also said he sees little support among lawmakers for the governor's tax plan, a copy of which was obtained by The Dallas Morning News on Friday.
The lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate, also said he sees almost no support for the split property tax approach that Mr. Perry has pitched in private meetings with state lawmakers. Leading business groups also have opposed the idea.
"I think most of the members in the House and Senate seem to be favoring either the sales tax approach or reform of the business franchise tax," he said.