August 16, 2005
Out with a whimper

Sometimes it's easy to forget that there's a special session going on out there, and it's coming to a close.

The end game shaped up Monday when the House didn't schedule floor debate for today on either its education funding bill or its tax bill to pay for cuts in local school property taxes.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Senate's presiding officer, said if the House doesn't pass its tax bill today, it's too late for the Senate.

"Procedurally it would be very difficult for us to receive and be able to act on a tax bill at this time," said Dewhurst. He noted that it would take a four-fifths vote to suspend rules to allow the bill to move more quickly, a "pretty high hurdle" for legislation as controversial as raising taxes.

Gov. Rick Perry, who declared school finance an emergency for the regular session that began in January and twice called special sessions on the issue, also sounded pessimistic about the chances of salvaging a school finance plan before the mandatory end of the session at midnight Friday.

Perry said legislators were closer to an agreement on school finance at the beginning of the second special session than they are now, four weeks later.

"We've got textbooks, fortunately, that are headed to the classrooms now because of action that was taken in this building," Perry said. "We've still got property taxpayers who have not seen any relief and some school funding and reforms that need to be addressed. So that's what's important, and that's where anyone who has the state's best interests should stay focused."

Perry wouldn't say whether he would call yet another session if this one fails.

It's hard to predict what Perry will do since he's so consistently said one thing then done another about school finance. The only other tidbit on this is David Dewhurst's obvious but reasonable suggestion, stated in this Express News story, that Perry will wait until the Texas Supremes make their ruling, as Speaker Tom Craddick has wanted all along.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said the school finance plan has been flawed all year because it would raise taxes on 80 percent of Texans while not spending enough to improve student performance.

"My disappointment is that over the 60-day period of time new proposals were not looked at," said Coleman. "This is the same proposal from last year that didn't have any legs then."

He added, "In the final analysis, it turned into a 'he said-she said' blame fest with the governor starting the fight by calling these special sessions with no solutions."

Sounds right to me. Aaron Pena and The Red State have more.

UPDATE: More from Houtopia.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 16, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Kuff, once again, it's not the guv or Craddick who will be blamed for this, it's the democratic caucus and --- especially --- the handful of gop legs who joined the democratic caucus in the house obstructing the big property tax cuts and such reforms as the November election date at the behest of the school supers and other pro-educrat, anti-taxpayer, anti-student, anti-school reform groups.

Garnett can say anything he wants, what it comes down to at ballot time is who actually voted to do what, and while Garnett may be safe due to his district makeup, that's not the situation Hochberg, Dunnam, Eiland and others face at all.

They will get at least one more chance in a new special session to redeem themselves, but as I have noted here previously, the taxpayer hit list is already a big one and it means the wipe-out of part of the present democratic leadership in the house as well as the defeat of a number of gop members in the primaries.

Add to this the vote on the CAD caps and we are looking at a massacre ...

Posted by: ttyler5 on August 16, 2005 7:48 PM

C'mon, dude. Everyone knows the Republicans are in charge. They didn't need the Democrats to pass anything - indeed, were it not for a dozen breakaway Republicans, the Hochberg Amendment would have been just so much waste paper. This is wishful thinking.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 16, 2005 8:06 PM

:^D Charles, I would certainly hate to be a state leg running for re-election in a taxpayer-targeted district and trying to explain away voting against the property tax cuts and the CAD caps based on, "It's all Craddick and Perry and Dewhurst's fault."

Rule one of Texas legislative campaigns, the vast majority of Texas voters hold the individual leg responsible for his or her individual voting record.

By the same token, the voters will also go by the final vote. A leg can come to Texas voters and say, "Well, I voted against the first three but the last one in the final special session was the best we could get, so I supported it," and the voters will go along with that.

But they won't buy, "It's Craddick's fault."

While it's those dozen or so gop turncoats who are at this time in the most trouble because the primaries are approaching, I will mention again that these are now, and will remain, the decisive issues of the upcoming leg elections in the taxpayer-targeted districts and that democrats in swing districts Like Hochberg and Eiland need to get behind a substantial property tax cut and the cad caps and at least vote for them.

Posted by: ttyler5 on August 17, 2005 3:42 AM