Here's an interesting perspective on why Governor Perry proposed the school finance reform solution that he did.
The 134 school districts that lose money under the Robin Hood school finance system serve 12 percent of the state's students. Voters in these districts cast 17.5 percent of the 2002 GOP primary vote, according to Texas Legislative Council records. But Campaigns for People found 27 percent of all campaign contributions made in 2002 came from people living in these districts.
Perry's staff crafted a school finance plan designed to appeal to Houston Republicans who want to cap property tax appraisals and to Dallas Republicans who want to eliminate the share-the-wealth Robin Hood school finance system. To pay for it, they avoided across-the-board tax increases, instead focusing on "sin" taxes and expansion of gambling to video lottery terminals at horse racing tracks.
Perry's aides then did polling to make certain his plan would be popularly received even if not legislatively viable.
"I'm sure he will say it's the best plan available, but a lot of people have speculated that it's because he's worried about somebody running against him," said Mike Boone, a prominent Republican lawyer from Dallas who is pushing for a broad business tax to replace the current school finance system. "He can claim he had a plan and if it failed, it failed, but at least he took action."
I'm also not sure how good a strategy this would be even if it's true. 17.5% is a decent sized bloc, but it's nowhere near a majority. Surely Perry sees his base as being a bit larger than the Houston and Dallas suburbs, right? I know primaries are decided by a small slice of the electorate, but betting one's reelection on one-sixth of those who voted last time seems awfully risky to me.
Finally, even if he is just hoping to get credit for trying, what happens if Craddick and Dewhurst team up to pass sweeping legislation that caps property taxes but also expands and increases the sales tax while overhauling the useless corporate franchise tax? Does Perry have the sand to veto such a bill and piss most people off, or does he turn his back on that 17.5%, who might reasonably have expected him to push his poll-tested plan a bit harder? Actually, if this did happen he'd probably point at the property tax cap and declare victory anyway. Whether he'd be allowed to claim credit or not is another question.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 26, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack