June 01, 2005
Perry ponders, Kuff yawns

Say it with me: Governor Perry says he'll call a special session on school finance reform if those pesky legislators can ever agree amongst themselves on how to go about doing it.

"The final chapter is not written," Perry said. "There is a very good chance we'll be back here, and hopefully legislators will address it."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he is eager to start a new round of negotiations next week with Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick.

"It's not rocket science," he said. "If America can send astronauts to the moon, the Texas Legislature can solve school finance."

Craddick said he's willing to meet but remained pessimistic, saying that the House and Senate are "universes apart" on writing a tax plan to pay for school property tax cuts. "I think we need to look at it," he said.

I'm aquiver with anticipation. I'll go lie down for a minute until the feeling passes.

Better now. What's the Leadership Sound Bite of the day?

The governor said he plans to continue leading negotiations in the next several weeks in hopes of reaching a compromise that can be passed by lawmakers in a special session.

"If they don't want to work to finish the job, then I think I may make, or I should say, they should make plans for a long and uncomfortable summer when they go home and they meet with those constituents and explain they did not act on education reform and property tax relief," Perry said.

Yes, well, as the Chron notes elsewhere, it's statewide officeholders like Governor Perry who are (or should be) feeling the discomfort. Tom Craddick, ensconsed in the world's safest district, can be as ornery and contrary as he pleases. It's no wonder Perry and Dewhurst have mostly blamed the House for the intransigence.

Perry grew testy when asked how the Legislature could find time to approve the purple sage as the official native shrub but not pass school finance.

"Anyone who thinks that passing a resolution to name the purple sage as the plant of the state of Texas is anywhere near connected to the difficulty and complexities of passing a public school bill, then I'd have to disagree with them," Perry said.

In a sense, he's right. This isn't a squabble about ancillary details, where a few extra hours here and there could have made a difference. You could have taken out all the purple sage and sexy cheerleader stuff and there still wouldn't have been an agreement on school finance. But let's not forget, the previous special session was called last April. We could have been having a dialogue on school finance all along if someone like, say, the Governor, had made it a priority. I keep asking the question "What's Rick Perry's vision for school finance?" because as far as I can tell, he doesn't have one. Oh, he has wish-list items, like property tax cuts and vouchers and merit pay for teachers, but it doesn't add up to anything. He doesn't have a plan that he can sell, so what we get instead is the collected views of a bunch of disparate individuals and groups competing with each other, and no progress is ever made.

Now, this is going to be a tough nut to crack even for someone with a vision and a mandate to implement it. No matter who gets sworn in as Governor in 2007, Tom Craddick will still be there, and he'll still not be much for compromise. And there's still the fact that the public never seems to want to pay for what it demands. But that's the task at hand, and if Rick Perry isn't up to it I'm sure someone else will be willing to give it a try.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 01, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack