July 25, 2005
Weekend special session overviews

I don't know about you, but my weekend was much better for being almost completely special session-free. I'm even about a quarter of the way through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince now - Tiffany, true to form, finished it up Saturday night. So I don't want to harsh anyone's mellow, but just in case you've been secretly craving some kind of analytic overviews (it's okay, you can admit it, we're all friends here), I've got a couple of pointers for you.

We'll start with this story which could be simply subtitled "Governing Is Hard Work".

Twice this year, the House and Senate have passed a pair of school finance proposals but have not yet voted on compromise plans worked out by negotiators from each chamber. One proposal rewrites the way the state pays for public education, and the other cuts school property taxes while raising sales and business taxes.

House and Senate leaders set out at the beginning of the year to reduce school property taxes by 33 percent but could not agree on a plan to raise other taxes to replace those dollars.

Lawmakers in each chamber steered away from a major overhaul of the corporate franchise tax, concerned that they would be labeled supporters of what some lobbyists were likening to a personal income tax if they extended it to partnerships.

They opted instead for a plan pushed by Perry to simply expand the corporate franchise tax to 10,000 businesses that now set up partnerships to avoid it.

The move has met heavy resistance from lobbyists for those businesses. It also pushed lawmakers toward a smaller property tax cut because they could not agree on another way to make up that revenue.

Cue the sappy violin music. I forget where I saw him quoted, but as Garnet Coleman put it, the reason these guys can't get this passed is because it's bad public policy. Good public policy doesn't have this kind of trouble. Eye on Williamson, from whom I got the link, has some more in depth discussion.

Next is this article which asks the question "Is Rick Perry gonna win his school finance gamble or not?"

"I think there is so much time, substance and dialogue invested that I don't think you can just go home," said GOP adviser Bill Miller. "The bug has taken hold. There's no way to get well without passing something."

Indeed, Mr. Perry's office is sounding that theme, warning lawmakers that they will be in the Capitol until an education plan is passed: "If they want to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus in Austin, that's fine with the governor because they are going to stay here until they get this done," said spokesman Robert Black.

Yeah, we know, we know.

There is cause for optimism on one point, however:

A leader does not allow three regular sessions and five special sessions to go by without fixing our public schools. A leader does not intimidate or threaten. Rick Perry is no leader," [Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn] said.

Mr. Perry said such broadsides were an insult to the efforts of the Republican-led Legislature and that he would not dignify the criticism with a reply.

But Ms. Strayhorn might have a point, said Allan Saxe, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Most people remember the regular session, when lawmakers spent "all that time debating the lewd-cheerleading bill. They look at those frivolous bills and say, 'Why didn't you tend to the big issues?' "

Even the mere possibility that Rick Perry could be politically damaged by Al Edwards' much-derided sexy cheerleading bill should give us all the strength we need to go on. Thanks to PinkDome for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack