As of this evening, prospects on a school finance compromise are not looking good.
"I wouldn't kid you, this thing is flying on empty right now," said Republican Sen. Steve Ogden, who is the chief Senate negotiator on the bill designed to change the way Texans pay taxes. "I hope we'll make it. We don't need any more headwind."
The special session ends on Wednesday, but legislative rules require more time for bills to go through a mandatory 24-hour wait period after they are printed and analyzed. Without an agreement on Sunday, approving legislation this session would be extremely difficult.
While a panel of House and Senate negotiators met on a bill that would spend billions of dollars on new education programs, Ogden, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick each spent several moments in Gov. Rick Perry's office, at different times.
Perry called the special session to restructure the way Texans are taxed to pay for public schools. Both the House and the Senate have approved their versions of the two bills and now panels of 10 lawmakers for each must work out the differences.
Negotiators were still stumped on the issue of recapture, which is the term for money that property wealthy districts give back to the state to redistribute to poorer districts. The recapture element gave the system its nickname, Robin Hood. Lawmakers who represent property wealthy schools were working to allow those districts to keep more of their property tax revenue, rather than giving it back to the state.
Even if negotiators do reach a compromise in time for it to get a vote by the full chambers, Democratic Sen. Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso has threatened to filibuster the bill over an increased sales tax, which he says is unfairly burdensome to lower-income Texans.