Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Texas special session seen as waste of time

The Texas Legislature’s 150 state representatives and 31 state senators debated and bickered, but ended up adjourning May 17, two days before the scheduled end of the special session called by Gov. Rick Perry.

They concluded their session without finding a new way to pay for the state’s public schools. All Texans have to show for the 30-day special session is the $1.7 million bill.

Because lawmakers went into the session without any real plan, Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick have vowed not to convene the Legislature until they have a consensus on what to do.

To reach some sort of agreement, two groups of House and Senate members will talk about education reform and school finance. If they come up with something, then Perry might call another special session.

The last thing the state needs is to repeat this waste of time. Perry should do taxpayers a favor and not call another special session. The state can wait until the next regular session begins — in January — for politicians to revamp school finance. Craddick has admitted as much, saying that lawmakers should wait to see what happens when a lawsuit filed by 47 school districts goes to trial in August.

Either way, taxpayers shouldn’t have to endure another special session that accomplishes nothing. This latest session ended up looking like a stunt by Perry. After the governor publicly shot down the Legislature’s payroll tax proposal — the right thing to do — the state House voted down his plan 126-0. Even members of his own party didn’t support the governor’s plan, which included using “sin taxes” — tobacco taxes, gambling proceeds and strip club admission surcharges — to help pay for schools, while lowering property taxes.

There’s nothing wrong with using money from gambling to pay for schools (of course, this brings up the matter of whether the state should operate its own lottery while preventing competition from casinos). And property owners desperately need relief from greedy school districts that can’t even properly spend the money they already have.

But politics always intervenes when it comes to funding public education. In the 2003 session, Dewhurst and the Senate came up with a school finance plan, even though Perry and Craddick said lawmakers couldn’t get it done that session. The Dewhurst plan never went anywhere, however, and Texans are stuck with the “Robin Hood” plan that requires property-wealthy districts to give money to property-poor school districts.

But the bigger question is whether the state tries to do too much. We’ve always said that instead of coming to taxpayers with their hands out for more cash, politicians need to live within their means. For the Texas Legislature, this means cutting back on spending other people’s money.

The legislative committees should take their time crafting solutions to our public education problems, and lawmakers should remember that in the end, they’re not the ones who end up paying for it.