Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick said Friday that he and the lieutenant governor will work more diligently with the education community before another special session to ensure its support for any plan to overhaul the school funding system.
School groups had criticized the Legislature during the recent special session on school finance, even discouraging the session before it began in April. The session ended Monday after 28 days with no plan and no consensus among lawmakers.
Support from the education community could be an important part of getting a bill passed, Craddick said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has vowed to call as many special sessions as necessary to overhaul the state’s share-the-wealth system of school funding, which relies heavily on local property taxes. Lawmakers want to eliminate the so-called Robin Hood system, reduce property taxes and find other sources of money to pay for education.
“I feel more strongly now about a total fix than I ever have,” Craddick said.
Craddick said he wants to give schools more money than they receive under the current plan, but finding new revenue sources that both legislative chambers can pass will be tricky. He believes any long-term fix must include a restructured business tax.
While Perry recommended closing loopholes in the franchise tax that allow an estimated five out of every six businesses to avoid paying, Craddick said the franchise tax should be eliminated entirely and replaced with another form of a business tax that can grow with the economy. Perry, however, has said he wouldn’t support any business tax that could upset job creation in Texas.
“Businesses that I’ve talked to say, `We’re willing to pay our share as long as it’s fair and treats everybody equal,’ ” Craddick said.
State-taxed video slot machines at horse and dog racing tracks emerged early on as an option that could raise as much as $1.5 billion in money for schools. Perry supported the idea, but opposition in the House led to that provision being removed from the bill. The result was a school finance plan that couldn’t pay for itself.
Next time around, Craddick said, he will encourage a plan that will separate video gambling from the overall bill and tie it to additional property tax relief. For instance, if the provision were approved — which may be unlikely — homeowners would get an additional 10-cent reduction in property taxes per $100 in appraised land value. If the measure were rejected, they would still get property tax relief, just not as much.
“That way we could still pass a bill with property tax reduction and put more money in schools,” Craddick said. Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst earlier this week appointed two working groups to address the issues of education reform and revenue. Craddick said he meets with Dewhurst almost daily, hoping to forge common ground between the House and Senate. He still hopes Perry won’t call another session until lawmakers agree on a replacement plan.
Actually consulting the education community before you force some half-assed “reforms” down their throats? Overhauling the tax code? Replacing the useless franchise tax with something that will actually generate revenue? Recognizing that the business community isn’t monolithically anti-tax, especially when they can see a clear benefit? Tying property tax reductions to pie-in-the-sky gambling money instead of betting the whole school funding enchilada on it?
Quick! Smelling salts! Man down over here!