Saturday, May 14, 2005

Legislative leaders trade jabs over school finance measures.


Public Education vice-chair questions, "Who is going to believe..."

"Minority children make up 60 percent of the students in our public school system, so obviously we have a great stake in any changes made to the school finance system," said Rep. René O. Oliveira, D-Brownsville and Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Public Education. "Denying minority House members a seat on the education bill conference committee eliminates any voice those children need. Politically, the lack of minorities greatly undermines the credibility of the committee and the legislation. Who is going to believe that the bill is as helpful as it can be to minorities, when minorities had no input in its development?"

No Democrats in the House voted for HB2. -Angela

Craddick and Dewhurst tussle over taxes

Legislative leaders trade jabs over school finance measures.
By W. Gardner Selby
Saturday, May 14, 2005

House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sniped over differences between House and Senate renditions of tax measures Friday, perhaps signaling that pending negotiations could turn personal and prickly.

Craddick appointed 10 Republican negotiators, including one woman, to tussle with Senate colleagues over House Bill 2, a school reform plan, and HB 3, the multibillion-dollar proposal intended to cut school property taxes by raising sales and tobacco taxes, among other sources of funding.

Asked why no Democrats or non-Anglos made it to the negotiation squads, Craddick said he chose individuals who voted for the proposals after House debate.

Dewhurst, asked if diversity would play into his awaited choice of negotiators, said it would.

"They're going to stack up" differently, Dewhurst said. "Diversity is important."

Craddick, answering reporters' questions, earlier questioned the Senate's decision to put what he termed $4 billion in additional education spending into its version of the tax plan.

He insisted such spending doesn't fit with the topic of HB 3 — "financing public schools in this state and reducing school property taxes," as he described it — though he didn't say precisely why.

He said House leaders have told the Senate as much 50 times.

"You can raise a jillion dollars if you want to raise it in the bill, but it all has to go to property tax reduction," Craddick said. "We've said that all along."

Dewhurst disagreed, saying some $3.2 billion slated for public schools in the proposal will come largely from accounting adjustments and other non-tax elements. Of Craddick, he said, "You know, it's Friday the 13th, anything can happen. Or rather, someone could say anything."

If things blow up on the tax and school measures, Dewhurst said, "It's not going to be the Senate's fault."

Craddick named Rep. Kent Grusendorf of Arlington to lead House negotiators on HB 2. Others named to that conference panel: Reps. Dianne Delisi of Temple, Bill Keffer of Dallas, Dan Branch of Dallas and Rob Eissler of The Woodlands.

The speaker named Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, to lead House negotiators on HB 3. Keffer will be joined by Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa, John Otto of Dayton, David Swinford of Amarillo and Charlie Geren of Fort Worth.

Dewhurst has not yet named Senate negotiators.

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