Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst, made one thing crystal clear July 14–if public school finance legislation fails in this special session, everything else will probably fail.
“That’s why we’re here. We’re going to take care of school finance for the school children, parents and businesses of Texas first. We are not going to take up any other legislation in the Senate and pass it out until we pass HB 2 and HB 3,” Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst, speaking as President of the Senate, was upbeat but cautious in describing the progress that has been made this week by Texas House and Senate conferees trying to come to agreement on the two key public school finance bills.
“Were hearing that they are making a lot of progress and are getting close. When I look at both the House and the Senate plans for lowering the school property taxes in HB 3, we are very, very close. The Senate wants to make an agreement.”
HB 2 proposes reforms in pubic education administration. HB 3 proposes a reduction in property taxes, changes to business franchise tax rules for partnerships and corporations and an increase in the state sales tax rate.
“We can have these bills buttoned down by Monday if the House will meet us in a fair way,” Dewhurst said.
The lieutenant governor repeated his strong commitment to minimize the amount of a sales tax increase in any final agreement saying the state sales tax rate should be no higher than 6.75%. “I think it’s important that we not increase the sales tax any more than we have to,” he said.
Dewhurst also wants to see a further increase in the number of Texas businesses paying the franchise tax and a lowering of the franchise tax rate. “Broaden the base, lower the rate and make the system fairer. That’s where we are going in 2007,” he said.