Friday, June 03, 2005

Craddick: Special Session May Wait for Ruling

Waiting makes sense to me. -Angela

Friday, June 3, 2005

Associated Press

MIDLAND, Texas – Gov. Rick Perry may wait until after the Texas Supreme Court rules on school funding to call a special session on the issue, House Speaker Tom Craddick said.

"There are a lot of talks along the line that we might wait until after the court rules," Craddick said Thursday in a news conference in his hometown of Midland.

Oral arguments in the state's appeal of a school finance lawsuit are set before the Texas Supreme Court July 6. A ruling would come some time after that.

Perry, a Republican like Craddick, earlier this week said he's continuing to work on an agreement among legislators and predicted he'll call a special legislative session by the end of June to achieve one. But Craddick indicated he thinks waiting for the court to make a decision could be the best course.

"Even if we went in tomorrow and passed a bill," Craddick said, "we don't know what the court is going to say is wrong with the system because the lower court didn't tell us what the specifics were – they just said it's broken."

Last fall, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Texas' public school finance system, which requires wealthier districts to share money with poorer ones, was unconstitutional. He gave the state until October to fix the problem or halt funding to public schools, but the state appealed.

Lawmakers attempted in their regular session that ended Monday to cut property taxes that currently fund schools and replace them with an expansion of the business and sales taxes. But House and Senate negotiators couldn't agree on specifics.

Funding public education with a broad-based business activity tax, one option considered earlier by lawmakers, is an unlikely special session solution, Craddick said.

Instead, Craddick said, he would like to see a decrease in property taxes offset by a mixture of sales tax increases and an expansion of the franchise tax.

As he had before the end of the regular session, Craddick again noted that the last time the Texas Legislature passed a school finance bill that was not in a special session was 1948.

Any special session on school finance also would require legislators to revisit appraisal caps and local tax revenue limits, Craddick said.

"They all go together," he said.

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