May 08, 2004
Expect overtime

The Senate is saying they'll probably need another session to come up with a plan that can be passed by both chambers.

"We are not under any time constraints. We don't feel May 19 is forcing us to make a hasty decision," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, the Senate sponsor of the tax-cut measure. "We want to be deliberative ... and if we go beyond May 19 into another special, then so be it."

Gov. Rick Perry has said he will call as many special sessions as it takes to obtain property tax cuts for homeowners and to eliminate the "Robin Hood" redistribution of taxes from wealthy school districts to less wealthy districts.

The current special session took a blow this week when efforts to pay for property tax cuts with new state taxes collapsed in the Texas House. The House passed some property tax cuts and school incentive measures but did not pay for them.

"We have pretty much decided the House proposal is hard to work off of. It would be very difficult to start with their proposal and try to craft something," Shapiro said. "So we're starting from scratch."


Numerous senators spent much of Friday huddling with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his office discussing not only what could pass the Senate but what could pass the House. Many said they were optimistic about reaching agreement in the Senate but felt uncomfortable with what might happen in the House.

"We're far apart from the House in where we want to go. We've got a long ways to go," said Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. "We've got a pretty good idea where we'd like to go, but we have to figure out what we can get through over there on the other side."

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said the odds are no better than "50-50" that anything can be accomplished before the session ends. He said senators are concerned that they will vote for a tax increase to pay for a property tax cut and then have the measure fail in the House.

Wentworth said a vote on a failed bill could be used politically against an incumbent. He said if a bill passed, an incumbent could justify a tax-increase vote because it provided tax relief.

"Then you could say we gave you a 33 percent or a 50 percent tax break, and they will understand it because they will have felt it by that time," Wentworth said.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said some senators are concerned that they could reach an agreement on a tax plan and then the House could force a change in conference committee. She noted it takes a two-thirds vote of the senators to pass a bill in the Senate but only a simple majority to approve a conference committee report.

"The lieutenant governor has pledged to us that no conference committee report would be adopted without a super-majority," Zaffirini said.

I'm not surprised, though I have to wonder if Governor Perry will ever call a special session for which all of his ducks are in line beforehand. I remain convinced that if Special Session 2 expires without anything happening, a third session won't accomplish anything, either.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 08, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack