The Batting Order

The major players in the special session feature a range of motives

The Batting Order

Gov. Rick Perry

The governor initially said he wouldn't call a special session without a consensus on how to fix school finance, but finally decided "to take his best shot." He's being harried by Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is in the wings. The guv may have decided to take the plunge and shore up his conservative base by frontal assault on property taxes – if he can pass "performance incentives" he may declare victory and blame the rest on the Lege.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

Dewhurst won kudos last spring with a Senate plan that had no hope in the House, but some senators now say they only approved it to get something on the table – and the 1-cent increase in the sales tax will no longer fly. Lite guv says he'll propose something else and will restore the two-thirds rule, but will drop it "in a New York minute" if he senses "partisanship." Not the most diplomatic opening to a session that would need two-thirds on proposed constitutional amendments.

House Speaker Tom Craddick

Craddick is said to be very skeptical of session success, and is rumored to have told Perry he has no interest in additional sessions if the job can't get done in one. The House is full of tax-cutters uninterested in compromise, although that will change when local school districts begin to call in with the financial consequences. Craddick is also operating under a cloud created by the TRMPAC campaign finance investigations and lawsuit, and Dems will likely remind him of it at every opportunity.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn

Conflict between Strayhorn and Perry has become increasingly strident, nearly open warfare. She's blasting him on health and human services, and this week said his school finance plan doesn't balance. Perry says Strayhorn wants it both ways – recommending radical budget cuts and then grandstanding on the consequences – and the common expectation is that both are gearing up for an electoral showdown down the line.

Rep. Kent Grusendorf and Sen. Florence Shapiro

The co-chairs of the Select Committee on Public School Finance have tried to ride herd on a disparate flock of issues and legislators, but the result was underwhelming – virtually the same options as on the interim charge. Grusendorf has filed his own bill, modeled on the governor's but likely to cobble together more of the "reforms" he failed to pass last year, and it's not clear he'll have better luck this time. Former schoolteacher Shapiro represents primarily wealthy suburban districts that want to slay "Robin Hood," and she has been the foremost voice for "adequacy" – give the poor districts a base, and let the rich ones spend as they will.

  • More of the Story

  • What's So Special?

    Gov. Perry calls a special session, and pits property taxes against schoolchildren
  • A Special Agenda

    The leading proposals focus on cutting taxes and finding substitute funds

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public school finance; Legislature, Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Tom Craddick, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Kent Grusendorf, Florence Shapiro

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