McKenzie column

It's no secret that the legislature's failure to produce a school finance bill hurts Rick Perry.

William McKenzie writes in a DMN column:

That sound you hear from Austin is a door swinging open, plenty wide enough for Kay Bailey Hutchison to barge right through.

Gov. Rick Perry has had every chance this session to lead legislators to a plan that answers the state's school funding shortfall, effectively closing Ms. Hutchison out of a gubernatorial primary challenge. Instead, he talks mostly about new academic and financial standards for schools. He appears content with the Legislature's funding proposals.


Unlike Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who's more likely to enter the GOP governor's race because she darn well wants to, Ms. Hutchison doesn't want to take this big leap without the right opening. She sells well across Texas, drawing about two-thirds of the votes in her Senate races. She particularly resonates with suburban voters, including women in places like Plano who place a high priority on their children's schools.

Before the 2005 Legislature, Mr. Perry gave her some daylight. After an impressive stint as lieutenant governor in 1999, his first session as governor in 2001 ended with strained feelings because he vetoed a ton of bills. His swift pen angered even supporters.

Then came 2003 and the Legislature's mean budget battle. With the governor's backing, the House took deep cuts out of programs that help kids and the elderly. The House's approach pretty much prevailed because the governor didn't want legislators to raise taxes.

Mr. Perry's no-new-taxes theme continues in the school finance debate, fed by the anti-tax movement that conservative advocate Grover Norquist and others in Washington have turned into a cottage industry. "Everyone in Austin's been Norquistized," says one business leader.

But here's the rub: Schools don't get fixed without enough money. If Mr. Perry keeps low-balling the state's education investment over the next month – and if GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst can't get the governor and House to budge – Ms. Hutchison has ample room to run. She can make the case that the governor didn't lead the state into the future.

Color me skeptical about McKenzie's column. McKenzie advocates that if Perry wants to be re-elected, then the guv ought raise taxes to pay for increased expenditures.

I'm very skeptical of the notion that GOP primary voters are clamoring for more state taxes, regardless of where the money is spent.

Posted by Evan @ 05/11/05 06:45 PM


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