April 06, 2004
News flash: Perry still indecisive about a special session

These things really do write themselves sometimes.

Gov. Rick Perry would like to call a special session on school finance to begin in the middle of this month, spokeswoman Kathy Walt indicated Monday.

But she said that Perry hadn't yet decided if he would call lawmakers back to Austin, despite widespread speculation that the governor's only remaining decision was when, not if.

"No decision has been made on a date or whether even to call a special session," Walt said.


The spokeswoman said the governor, who visited Houston on Monday to continue a series of private meetings with business leaders, was still seeking consensus on a plan for reducing school property taxes and improving classroom quality.

Perry wants to limit increases in property tax reappraisals for residential property, lower tax rates and allow property taxes on businesses to be treated differently from homeowners' taxes.

The proposals have drawn fire from business groups who fear they would result in a larger share of the tax load being transferred to businesses.

The governor, in private meetings, has floated an increase in the state cigarette tax and legalization of video lottery terminals at racetracks as new revenue sources for education. But he has said he opposes any major state tax increase.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the Senate have been quietly promoting a new, broad-based business tax to include many service industries that they believe aren't carrying their fair share of the state's tax load.

Dewhurst has said there is support for that idea in the House, but Speaker Tom Craddick has been mum on the subject, at least publicly.

Just a reminder for all of those who see some kind of hard and fast deadline in April for the calling of a special session: Exactly 11 months ago today, on May 6, 2003, the State Senate unanimously passed a bill to redo school financing by increasing and expanding the sales tax. The same legislation also provided a cap on property tax appraisals. Governor Perry summarily rejected it, as did Speaker Tom Craddick, who wanted more time to "study" the issue.

Well here we are, nearly a year later, and we're essentially no closer to a solution than we were in those heady days just before Tom DeLay hijacked the legislative agenda. I don't endorse Dewhurst's plan, but anything that can get unanimous support has to be considered a good starting point for the kind of "consensus" that our only Governor says he wants. The blame for the lack of that "consensus" and for any discernable progress on this issue falls squarely on his shoulders, for surely Craddick would have fallen in line if Perry had taken Dewhurst's proposals seriously. Maybe it was his ego at being upstaged, maybe it was blind ideology causing him to choke on any kind of tax increase, maybe it was just plain obstinacy, but the fact remains that we have nothing to show for these last eleven months but another useless study telling us what we already knew and a lot of baloney from the Governor's office.

For those of you who are wondering why we bothered with this Robin Hood system in the first place, the Express News has a short overview of its effects. And for a different yet familiar suggestion, check out Carlos Guerra.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 06, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack