Craddick in Dewhurst's School Finance Prayers

The Lege can't solve school finance; maybe Jesus will

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst doesn't typically wear his religion on his sleeve, but he told a group of ministers last week that he's praying for his most nettlesome political rival – House Speaker Tom Craddick.

Briefly addressing the Legislature's failure to pass a school finance bill in the regular session and two special sessions, Dewhurst lauded the state Senate and Gov. Rick Perry for doing their part to move an education package forward, but stopped short of pointing an accusatory finger at the House. He has on prior occasions heaped most of the blame on Craddick for the school finance flop.

"I'm going to pray for the speaker," the lite guv said, his voice taking on a grave, ministerial tone. "I'm going to pray for the speaker. We need strength in the House."

Dewhurst, who is thus far running for re-election unopposed in 2005, was one of only two state elected officials (along with Perry) who spoke at a large gathering of conservative religious leaders in Austin on Aug. 23.

He touched on the Lege's various accomplishments during his leadership tenure in the Senate, beginning with the 2003 session. The crowd applauded enthusiastically when he recounted how lawmakers balanced a $10 billion revenue shortfall without raising taxes (never mind that poor folks took the brunt of the balancing act). And he talked about the passage of a Defense of Marriage Act two years ago, and a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage this year, drawing another round of applause.

But when Dewhurst addressed how the 2005 Legislature pumped $3.5 billion into Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program "to protect the neediest in our society" – a guaranteed applause line at most gatherings – the crowd drew strangely quiet. So he moved quickly to a new law limiting abortions, and the audience cheered on cue. Nice save.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas politics, David Dewhurst, Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, school finance, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program, Texas Restoration Project

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