July 16, 2004
Shapiro goes for the Hail Mary

With the odds of another special session on schol finance dropping by the day, State Sen. Florence Shapiro is making one last try to get things done.

The plan would cut local school property taxes by 35 cents and replace the lost $3.5 billion with business taxes. Businesses would have the option of paying based on gross receipts, payroll or under the existing franchise tax.

Shapiro said every business in Texas would pay some tax. Only about one of every six businesses pays the current franchise tax, which generates $1.9 billion a year.

Her plan also would generate $1.5 billion for education by raising the state sales tax and motor vehicle sales tax from 6.25 percent to 6.75 percent and increase cigarette taxes by 50 cents a pack.

The bulk of the new spending would go to teacher salaries and incentives and bilingual education. Shapiro said she thinks the new spending could make a big impact in lowering the dropout rate and getting more students ready for college.

"I'm a strong proponent and advocate for an August session," Shapiro said. "If we as legislators have said education is our number one priority, time is running out, in my opinion."

Shapiro's plan is the first to emerge since May, when a special session ended without a compromise.

There's nothing really new about this, in the sense that each one of these ideas has been proposed by someone before. Shapiro's package is about as reasonable as it's going to get given the prevailing atmosphere, and as before the only question is whether or not the opposition for each individual aspect of the plan, most especially the business tax pieces, can be beaten back or bought off. This is also the area where even a smidgeon of courage and leadership from the Governor would make the biggest difference. Naturally, as a result it's the part that's most likely to cause the whole thing to fail.

More in the DMN.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has made it clear he does not want to deal with school finance until the 2005 legislative session.

I point this out as a reminder to myself that the Governor is not the only obstacle to immediate action. I actually tend to agree with Craddick on this, mostly because I fear there's a greater chance of a half-assed see-no-evil dead skunk of a plan being rushed through at the last minute in a special session. Not that this sort of thing doesn't happen in a regular session, but at least there's more time to expose flaws

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 16, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack