August 12, 2005
Craddick flipflops, House will reconsider tax bill

The Chron appears to be the only outlet reporting this latest development in the school finance battle.

A tax bill that received only eight votes in the Texas House last month was re-filed Thursday and could come up for floor debate next week.

"We're going to give it a shot," said Speaker Tom Craddick, who quickly added that if internal House polling shows insufficient support for the bill, it won't be called up for a vote.

"I'm willing to work and push ahead, but I'm not going to bring anything to the floor that I don't know we have the votes," Craddick said.

His comments were a change from Wednesday, when he said the House had no interest in trying to draft a tax bill by the mandatory Aug. 19 end of this summer's second special session on school finance.

Keep flipflopping like that, Tom, and people are going to start mistaking you for David Dewhurst.

Craddick said he doesn't think last month's 124-8 vote against a similar tax bill was a "true vote." It came shortly after the House killed an education funding bill, which had been heavily amended during floor debate.

I'm sure that's true. But given that this bill is similar in many respects to ones that previously tried and died, what makes anyone think this one will do any better?

Here's a brief description of the bill from the Quorum Report.

Rep. David Swinford (R-Dumas) admits House Bill 8 is not ideal, but it is enough to get the Legislature through the court challenges and to the next session, when a full tax overhaul can be considered, he told the House select committee on public education tonight.

Swinford’s bill is a combination of various taxes already proposed on the floor of the House. Elements include a ¾ cent sales tax increase and some expanded taxation on auto and computer repairs, plus a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase, the liar’s affidavit and the closure of the Geoffrey and Delaware loopholes. Language perceived as double taxation has been deleted and a $7,500 homestead exemption option added.

“I believe that this particular bill will get us out of the courts as far as a statewide property tax, and that is the main purpose I bring it to you today,” said Swinford, who also added, “I also believe this is not the best bill that we can do.”

The Geoffrey and Delaware loopholes are related to the state's ineffective franchise tax - this is what would make about 10,000 more businesses have to pay it, though many more businesses would still be unaffected. I confess I don't know offhand what the "liar's affidavit" is.

Also, as noted by Nate and Rawhide at PinkDome, there's another version of Rep. Kent Grusendorf's school finance bill HB71 is also up for consideration. QR again:

HB 71, the new education reform bill, is not essentially the same as the HB2 that passed to engrossment as we first reported. Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston notes that it is much more like HB2 as filed before it went through the committee process.

Once again, why anyone thinks one more try with the same old same old will work is beyond me. There's a week to go, though, so who knows what will happen.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 12, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Kuff, as I indicated in an earlier comment below, there's a lot of quiet background action coming from the taxpayers side of this, and House leaders on both sides of the aisle are very much aware of the political cost they will pay if they walk away from this without giving the homeowners a property tax cut. Ive been burning up the phone lines myself on this one.

Per yourcomments on the earlier vote, I also mentioned a few days ago, in another comment, that the earlier vote against the education bill this session was not only a result of frustration, rather I am certain that voting down the bill also gave members some political cover for next year, and that this was a motivation as well, especially with the educrats paying attention.

Posted by: ttyler5 on August 12, 2005 1:49 PM