Senate Needs More Time for School Finance Plan
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst held a press conference today to say that it is not feasible to craft a comprehensive school finance reform plan by the end of the special session on May 19. "We need more time to do a good job," said Dewhurst, "the children of Texas deserve no less." The Senate has been working long hours to draft a plan that lowers property taxes but increases education funding since House Bill 1 arrived from the House of Representatives last week. Dewhurst said that this task was complicated because several funding options have been removed from the table by the House and the Governor's office. To have enough time to put HB1 on the Governor's desk by next Wednesday, Dewhurst said the Senate would have to pass a bill by midnight tonight. He added that the bill is not ready. The Lieutenant Governor pledged that the Senate would work closely with the House and the Governor over the next five days to come closer to consensus on a good school finance reform plan should another special session be called.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden outlined the difficulties of creating a good school finance reform bill. "School finance is the most complex issue that the Legislature faces," said Ogden, "When you add the elements of cutting property tax, improving equity, increasing the amount of money to school children, you create the most complex issue we see in this state. We simply need more time." Education Committee Chair and HB 1 Senate sponsor Senator Florence Shapiro agreed with Dewhurst and Ogden, and further pledged the resources of the Senate to finding an equitable plan to change the way Texas pays for public education. She said it would take another special session for the Senate to have ample time to find a plan that works.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 17, at 11 a.m.