That sound you hear is the last dying breath of a special session on school finance reform.
The Texas school funding crisis should be addressed along with a slew of other state budget demands during the Legislature's regular January meeting, the chief budget writer in the House says.
The sentiment from Rep. Talmadge Heflin is the latest from the Capitol to indicate that there won't be a special legislative session this summer to take up the contentious issue.
"On an issue as tough as school finance, we also have to look at the entire tax code, not just a part that focuses on public education," said Mr. Heflin, a Houston Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Education has to be in competition with everything else. We can't just isolate it and say we will give education all this money without regard to everything else."
Several lawmakers are waging re-election campaigns, a possible distraction from public education.
In January, "we can capitalize on the change of attitude that may occur after the election cycle," Mr. Heflin said.
Recently elected Senator Kevin Eltife has gone on record opposing Gov. Rick Perry’s “sin-tax” proposals. Stating this to be the “…most important issue facing the legislature,” Sen. Eltife voiced his doubt that another special session looms for Texas legislatures.
“I think the chances for another special session are not very good,” he said. “I was hoping we could reach a consensus in Austin on how to solve the school finance issue and thus have another special session to focus on this important issue. Unfortunately it does not look like that will happen.
“It looks like we will have to wait until the Regular Session in 2005. I welcome the opportunity to work on solving the problem, reducing the property tax burden on homeowners and finding additional revenue for our public schools. I believe this is the most important issue facing our state.”
While they didn't laugh and say, "When pigs fly," Angelina County's state lawmakers did say Wednesday it is unlikely that the Texas House and Senate will come to the consensus needed for the governor to call another special session on school finance this summer.
"Although members of the House and the Senate are still working toward reaching a consensus, the chance of another special session on school finance being called diminishes with each passing day as we approach the start of the 79th Legislative Session," said state Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine.
"In my personal judgment, I don't think we're any closer to reaching any kind of consensus," said state Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin. "Consequently, I'd be surprised if (Perry) did call another special session."
And finally, more from the Governor himself.
"We'll have a better idea then of our economic situation" in Texas, Perry said. "I was talking about this with the lieutenant governor (David Dewhurst) on the way down here. There's still time (for a 2004 special session), but it's a difficult issue. It's a tough issue, complex and volatile for a number of reasons.
"Whether we have this in August or in the '05 session, it's not going to go away," Perry said.