Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has called on Governor Perry to call another special session on school finance reform.
"What I'm worried about is if we don't get to school finance until the regular session, we're going to have a lot of competing needs for money," Dewhurst said to a group of about 250 members of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
Once the Legislature gathers for its biennial session in 2005, Dewhurst said lawmakers' attention will be divided among other funding priorities.
"I'm concerned we won't be able to allocate the resources, we won't have the will to allocate the resources, and we won't be able to cut our local property taxes as much as we need to in order to spur more economic development in the state," he said.
Dewhurst has favored reducing local property taxes by replacing the state's existing franchise tax with a broad-based business tax.
Perry, who has not confirmed speculation that he would call another special session as soon as mid-July, recently said he is gauging whether consensus on the issue can be reached.
"I think there's still a good possibility (of a special session)," Perry said. "The Legislature's making good progress. ... Unless something gets stuck in the machinery to stop it, I see us continuing to move forward."
And speaking of consensus:
Dewhurst said it would be a bad idea for the Legislature to put off addressing school finance until a lawsuit filed by hundreds of school districts charging the state with inadequately funding schools is resolved.
House Speaker Tom Craddick is among those who have advocated waiting for a ruling on the suit, set for trial in August.
"If we wait until next year, next summer, one of two things can happen — and they're both bad," Dewhurst said.
If the state loses the suit, Dewhurst said lawmakers "might be inclined to do only the minimum required" to rectify funding issues. If the state wins, he said, lawmakers might not pursue dramatic reforms "because the pressure has been taken off."