Perry Makes the Call
The long-awaited special session on school finance begins this week
Perry called his plan a "permanent solution" delivering "permanent tax relief" that would result in an average $418 annual tax cut for taxpayers yet increase annual funds for school districts by $375 per student. He dismissed alternative proposals circulated in recent weeks (e.g., Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's call for cutting property taxes immediately by half), saying, "Cutting property taxes by half means a $20 billion tax bill" that would negatively impact business and job growth. Perry said he continues to talk with legislative leaders but that there is a consensus on "the major goals: eliminating Robin Hood and cutting property taxes." Asked if he thought he would have better luck than his predecessor-once-removed Ann Richards did with the 1991 Legislature, Perry said, "I'm certainly not Ann Richards ... and there is a substantially different Legislature in place." He added that critics pointing to the state's dozen superwealthy districts that would be freed from any recapture obligation under his plan are "missing the mark" because his proposal remains "the most equitable in the history of the state." Asked about Perry's claims, the Equity Center's Wayne Pierce, who advocates for property-poor districts, said, "It is impossible to tell from the information released thus far whether the governor's plan in fact increases the level of equity in the system."
Perry said he would listen to suggestions, but he does not expect to add other items of business to the session call. Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has asked that Perry add restoring funds to the Children's Health Insurance Program, and business groups have pressed for additional "tort reform" measures, specifically making it harder for workers to sue for asbestos injuries.
The governor said that, whatever plan is adopted, "We must not confuse the biggest price tag with the best value," and that however the sessions turn out, "We won't fail because we refuse to try."