So the special session has started. Call me crazy, but the tone of this article shouldn't give anyone much hope.
The initial focus of the new session will be on Republican Speaker Tom Craddick and the GOP majority in the House, which, under the state constitution, must act first on a tax bill.
And one Republican House member, Rep. Carter Casteel of New Braunfels, warned the new session was shaping up as "a mess."
She said many GOP House members, who got elected campaigning against higher taxes, are worried they will lose their re-election bids next year if they vote again for higher state taxes, as they did in March, and then fail to reach a compromise with the Senate on property tax relief.
"It (the special session) is going to put the icing on the cake. The icing may taste good or a little sour," Casteel added.
Some lawmakers, it was reported, were angry at being called back to Austin on short notice and having summer plans disrupted.
The tax bill passed the House in regular session by a margin of five votes, with more than a dozen Republicans voting against it. Craddick on Monday said he does not yet know whether he has the votes to pass a tax bill again.
"That concern is always there," Craddick said. "We're just going to have to get the bills put together and poll, as we've always done."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ben Hallmark
June 20, 2005
House Democratic Leaders Propose Real School Finance Solution
Key Legislators Seek Bipartisan Support for Plan that Offers More than Politics,
More Funding for Schoolchildren and Lower Taxes for More Texans
Austin -- Texas House Democratic leaders today proposed a school finance and property tax cut plan which puts more new resources in our children's classrooms -where they belong- and gives greater property tax reductions to millions of middle class Texans.
The plan closely tracks the "Learn and Live Plan" House Democrats proposed during the regular session as a responsible public policy approach that rises above politics to do what's best for our schools and the vast majority of Texas homeowners. The plan earned bipartisan support on the House floor, despite lacking support from the Republican leadership at that time.
"Just as we did during the regular session, we have worked to develop a responsible school finance solution that is better for all Texans," said Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston). "Our plan would provide more resources to Texas schools and greater tax savings to the vast majority of Texas homeowners than the bills that passed the House and Senate."
"Like most Texans, we are tired of listening to our leaders blame each other," Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) said. "During the past regular session, we saw evidence that a bipartisan coalition exists on the House floor that wants to do what's best for our neighborhood schools, and it's time to open up the process to let a bipartisan legislative majority craft a school finance plan that is worthy of our school children and local taxpayers."
"Absent partisan political pressure, a plan that is better for both public schools and homeowners in 90% of house districts should pass with overwhelming support," said Rep. Pete P. Gallego (D-Alpine).
Rep. Hochberg said the plan outlined by House Democrats will be filed as legislation and encouraged legislators and Texans, regardless of political party, to examine the details of a plan that would:
* Provide a responsible, equitable school finance system that approaches 100% equity and would increase state education funding to cover at least 50% of the cost of our children's education;
* Raise teacher pay from 38th nationally to the national average and restore the teacher health care benefits cut in 2003 by the Republican leadership;
* Increase funding for Comp. Ed. programs for at-risk students and bilingual education, mentoring programs, Pre-K and 9th grade initiatives to help children who need help the most stay in school and graduate;
* Provide funds for up-to-date textbooks and technology essential to learning;
* Reduce class sizes with new facility funding for classrooms;
* Continue funding for gifted and talented programs;
* Provide across-the-board property tax cuts and additional targeted tax cuts for Texas families by tripling the homestead tax exemption to $45,000 and lowering the maximum tax rate from $1.50 to $1.25 per $100 valuation.