Monday, April 24, 2006

Big Day at the Lege

Eye On Williamson County has a “primer” for today’s vote, Bay Area Houston Blog found a fantastic round up yesterday, and Common Sense breaks the story on a Republican rally opposing HB 3-5.

The House is meeting today to talk about 4 new ways to tax the state and one way to give increased funding for the wealthiest three school districts while ignoring the thousands of others. Not quite sure this is what the Texas Supreme Court had in mind when they sent the legislature back to work.

Aaron Pena puts it bluntly for a legislator:
Broadly speaking here are the bills and what they do: House Bill 1 would use $2.4 billion of the $8 billion [unused education funds] for a 12 percent property tax cut. House Bill 2 would dedicate all revenue from a new business tax and higher tobacco taxes to further property tax cuts. House Bill 3 would enact a new broad-based business tax. House Bill 4 tightens and clarifies motor vehicle sales rules, where some dollars were slipping through the cracks because consistent language was missing from sales documentation. House Bill 5 might mean an extra $623 million to school funding accounts, as it sets aside an increase to $1 on tobacco taxes.

Limits On Debate
These bills will be debated Monday and can be watched starting at 10:00 a.m. Unlike most debates on bills, Republicans on Friday passed rules that would limit amendments that would seek to spend the money raised by the tax-swap plan on anything other than property tax cuts. That would stop Democrats who would want to spend as much on school improvements as property tax relief.
If you notice, not a single one of the bills being voted on today will address public schools. Interesting?

The Democratic Caucus was proposing a 50:50 split last week. The split would have created a standard that said for every two cents raised one would go to paying down property taxes and one would go toward helping public schools. The Republican caucus led by Tom Craddick, Rick Perry, and David Dewherst lobbied against the proposal and have effectively taken the school out of school funding.

Now we are stuck with five proposed bills that are set up like a stack of cards. If one of these bills fails, then we won’t have enough money coming into our state to offset the loss of revenue. I could try to explain it with charts and math, but I am going to leave that to the pros.

It is good to see that the plan during this third special session is to pay off the debt with a credit card . At least they are only gambling with 99.9% of Texas students.

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