July 04, 2005
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Gloom clouds special session

So how is that special session going for Governor Perry?

"I don't think people are overly enthusiastic about being here," said Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte. "The mood I sense is everybody's pretty skeptical about being successful, and that creates the mood of, well, I hope we're not just here wasting our time."

Even leaders in the tax debate Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and House Ways and Means Chairman Jim Keffer, R-Eastland are grumbling.

"Everyone's frustrated. No one wants to be here, but we're going to get it done because we have to," Ogden said.

"Any special session is very disruptive to families and businesses. Obviously, the governor felt like he needed to have this done for the state of Texas. So he called us back," Keffer said.

'Primary politics'
Adding salt to the wound is the belief by some legislators Democrats and Republicans that Perry's motives in calling the special session had more to do with politics than policy.

Shortly before Perry notified legislative leaders that he planned to call the session, many thought U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would challenge him in the Republican primary, which she decided against doing. Perry called the session an hour before Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced her challenge to his re-election.

Then Perry's re-election campaign began running radio commercials telling voters to call their legislators if they wanted property tax cuts.

"A lot of members assume this is about Republican primary politics," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. "You've got Strayhorn and Perry having verbal warfare, and there is a sense among members that we're being used for political purposes."

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he's willing to work if this session is a serious effort to reform education funding but that he has yet to be persuaded that it is much more than a political gimmick by the governor.

"I'd be willing to be here for 10 special sessions if this was about serious policy making," he said. "It will be two weeks of half-hearted effort and two weeks of beating a dead horse."

Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, in 2003 offered a solution to cut property taxes by raising sales taxes, a plan opposed by Perry. Merritt finds it ironic that Perry is now promoting a sales tax increase to pay for his school finance plan.

"I'm not criticizing the governor, but one minute he's for gambling and he's for a tax on burlesque clubs and now he's for a tax on sales," Merritt said. "Dave Carney, the governor's main political consultant, ran ads attacking me in that Senate special election for wanting to raise the very same taxes the governor now supports."

Simply stated, there's not a position Rick Perry holds steadfast on, save for a property tax cut that pretty much everyone is for anyway. The problem, however, is twofold: for starters, you've got to make up that lost revenue somehow. Secondly, this was supposed to be about school finance first and foremost. Clearly, with Rick Perry, that's an afterthought.

Failure in this special session would represent Strike Four for Rick Perry in trying to replace the Robin Hood mechanism of school finance with ... well, with anything. Far worse for Perry is that since he's vetoed the school funding bill that did come out of the regular session, it may be time to start worrying about whether or not schools will even be open on time this year. The status quo for now means that they will not. But with a little luck, maybe Perry will finally lose the nickname of Governor Goodhair when Governor Bad Idea becomes more relevant.

Posted by Greg Wythe on July 04, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack