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Good News Dallas
by Scott Bennett    Thu, Dec 22, 2005, 02:56 PM

So now Speaker Tom Craddick has reneged on an agreement with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to create a House-Senate committee to work on a school finance plan in advance of an expected special session in the spring. He prefers instead to wait and see what the Gov. Perry-appointed tax commission comes up with. Great. We all hope the John Sharp-headed committee will pull some rabbits out of a hat. But meantime, what's the House doing to get ready?

 What's wrong with Craddick, anyway? First he was waiting to see what the Texas Supreme Court would do. Now he's defering to the tax commission. Sounds as if he wants sombody, anybody, to come up with a magic solution.  There are no magic solutions.

Crafting a new plan requires hard work.  As a former governor now in a more powerful position is prone to say: You have to work hard.  Members of the Legislature have to get together at some point and hammer out a plan.  They might as well start hammering now.  If the tax commission comes up with some good ideas, fold those in.

The good news is that Dewhurst has appointed a Senate committee to do interim work. The committee is headed by the able senator from Collin County, Florence Shapiro, who has worked long and hard already in the trenches of school finance.  The committee has six Republicans but also three Democrats -- two represent Hispanic constituencies in the Valley and Royce West of Dallas brings the viewpoint of blacks in an urban district.  The committee wants to put more money into the schools, with some accountability measures and performance guarantees, cut property taxes and close business tax loopholes. So the approach likely will be similar to what the Senate proposed before, which failed to gain the support of the House.  The House needs to weigh in -- at least determine what its goals are in for a new funding system.

Instead, however, looks like the Craddick-managed House will just sit back and wait for manna to drop from heaven.

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