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April 17, 2006     (512) 463-0300

SENATE BEGINS TAX REFORM SESSION

The Legislature today began the fourth special session to address how the state pays for public education.

Last October, the Supreme Court ruled that the way that the state property tax system was structured represented a de facto statewide property tax, which violates the state constitution. The court gave the Legislature until June 1, 2006 to repair the property tax code, or face a possible suspension of state education services.

The Legislature has held three previous special sessions and one regular session to reform public school finance, but this is the first session where lawmakers face these kind of consequences.

The five subjects listed in the governor's call are relatively narrow, restricting legislation to bills that address the school district property tax, modifications to the franchise tax, motor vehicle and tobacco taxes, as well as bills that relate to appropriations for the Texas Education Agency. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said today that the Senate will consider legislation to reform the education system in the state. Dewhurst believes that the Governor's call is broad enough to include bills that seek to improve public schools in Texas. "The subject of the Governor's call is clearly public school funding," he said. "Public education reforms addressing the financial and academic accountability of school districts, are in my view, both prudent and reasonable safeguards to provide our taxpayers while seeking additional state and tax revenues for the support of public education. Therefore I believe that the consideration of these reforms to be wholly within the constitutional limits imposed by the Governor's call."

Dewhurst referred an education reform bill, Senate Bill 1, to the Education Committee at the end of today's session. That bill, which will likely be considered before the committee on Wednesday, includes funds for a teacher pay raise, teacher incentive packages, and accountability measures for Texas public schools.

Addressing the subject of tax reform, Dewhurst said the Senate will consider any reasonable plan to reduce property taxes.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 18, at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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