Tea or conscience?

There are property tax cuts, and there are disasters. The 2006 school finance law, championed by Gov. Rick Perry, was both. And since it has caused about onethird of the state’s current $27 billion budget hole, it was discussed again during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee today.

The committee was reminded that the state revenue package, namely the expanded business tax, adopted in 2006 was designed to be about $4 billion a biennium short of paying for the property tax cuts. That was the way the Republican leadership, during a reelection year for the governor, wanted to achieve a net tax reduction. An improving economy, they predicted, would make up for the difference.

As we all know by now, of course, they weren’t any better at forecasting the economy than they were at providing responsible leadership. The economy tanked, the business tax underperformed (and in a big way) and the structural deficit, as it is called, in the school finance system is now about $10 billion for this biennium.

“I didn’t vote for it (the 2006 law) because I knew it would not work,” said Sen. Kevin Eltife, a Republican from Tyler who has become something of a Republican conscience on budgetary issues.

“It would be nice if we could admit our mistake and fix it,” he added.

Several weeks ago, Eltife said it would be “insane” not to spend any of the Rainy Day Fund and also advocated finding additional revenue to avoid crippling cuts in public education and other important state services.

Eltife undoubtedly is annoying the governor and many of his Republican legislative colleagues. But I bet many of his East Texas constituents, at least those who haven’t drowned themselves in tea, are applauding.


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