June 17, 2005
Look out, here it comes

I confess, I didn't think it was going to happen, but apparently it will:

Lawmakers will return to Austin Tuesday for a special session on school finance, state Sen. Florence Shapiro said today.

Shapiro, a leader on the school funding issue, said Republican Gov. Rick Perry will announce the special session Saturday. Perry's office wouldn't confirm the announcement.

First things first: Why make the announcement on a Saturday?

The announcement would come on the same day Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is expected to announce whether she will challenge Perry in the 2006 governor's race.

Rick Perry may be a lousy Governor, but as a politician he's not too shabby. If he's feeling any lower back pain right about now, it's probably because Strayhorn is sticking pins into a voodoo doll that looks like him.

Anyway. Here's Perry's gambit:

Gov. Rick Perry has told state leaders that he is prepared to veto all funding for public schools, forcing them to tackle the thorny issue in a special legislative session he intends to call, starting next Tuesday.

Four people informed of the governor’s plans said that he is reacting to the inclination of the Legislature to act only under deadline pressure. They said he believes that wiping out education funding will spark real action.

By vetoing the section of the state budget dealing with public education – $33 billion over two years – Mr. Perry will force lawmakers to retool school financing, a goal that has eluded him for two years.

Mr. Perry will announce his decision Saturday, when he also will reveal his line-item vetoes in the state budget. The governor has pledged to whittle the spending plan from the nearly $140 billion that legislators approved.

Well, that's decisive, I guess. It strikes me as being roughly on par with the infamous zero-based budget Perry submitted before the 78th Lege began, in that it contains no clue as to what Perry wants, but it is taking action of a sort. I'll give him that.

It may well be, however, that the action he's taking is reckless.

Dewhurst and Craddick reacted coolly to the veto threat. A House source said House leaders are more willing to await a state Supreme Court decision on school finance, but two sources said Dewhurst believes legislative leaders are close to a deal on school finance.

However, a Senate source said, "for three months, we've been telling you we're close. It's embarrassing."

A lobbyist familiar with the negotiations said Craddick is willing to wait.

"It's like two people living in a house. One wants to build a new house and the other is happy to continue living there until the place is condemned and they have to move," the lobbyist said.

We know what happened the last time a special session was called on school finance without there being a consensus of how to proceed in place. This sounds an awful lot to me like Tom Craddick hasn't seen anything to change his mind about compromising. Sure, if Perry gets an agreement out of this he looks great, but how big a loser will he be if it fails again?

Maybe Craddick's just playing coy. PinkDome passes on the rumor that "There is a 'fragile' deal on school finance in place, but the Gov. wants more time to negotiate with Craddick." Maybe there really is a deal almost in place and no one wants to say anything to jinx it, like a baseball team not telling a pitcher he's got a no-hitter going. I guess we'll find out next week.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 17, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Craddick of course doesn't really have to worry about anything but his home district, where he is a fixture.

But gop lawmakers across Texas who screw the pooch on this one will have plenty to worry about from their homeowning taxpayer constituency if they leave school finance in the hands of the courts once again.

Posted by: ttyler5 on June 17, 2005 5:39 PM

Oh, Craddick may have quite a bit to worry about, none of it having to do with his district or his re-election prospects.

It's difficult to run for office when you're under indictment, after all...

Posted by: PDiddie on June 18, 2005 11:54 AM