AUSTIN (CBS 11 NEWS) – By many accounts, Texas is already the best state in which to do business. Many firms are re-locating here because of the low-tax climate.
At a news conference Wednesday, Governor Rick Perry, Lt Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus say they want to know how they could cut business taxes further.
Governor Perry said, “I’d like to hear from the people of the state of Texas what can we do at this particular juncture to reduce the regulatory burden, reduce the tax burden, and reduce the cost of doing business in the State of Texas.”
But Democrats here at the State Capitol say any talk about tax cuts is premature.
Senator Royce West of Dallas says tax relief should only be considered after lawmakers agree how much money public schools receive. “To have a public school system that is second to none in the country, take care of any higher education matters that we feel are appropriate to take care of. If there’s additional dollars after we take out of or put into the rainy day fund or reserve, then I think we should give tax relief.”
Both he and Senator Wendy Davis, Democrat of Fort Worth say they believe legislators should replace the $5.4 billion in cuts made to public schools two years ago. 11,000 teachers statewide lost their jobs. Class sizes got bigger.
Senator Davis says, “We must talk about restoring those cuts.”
During their news conference, I asked Governor Perry if the state should give schools the money back.
Mr. Perry said, “I don’t imagine we’re going to quit having arguments, do we have enough money. We’ve always been committed to public education. I will suggest to you in the last decade that Texas has done a very good job of funding public school education, and we’re seeing some pretty good results out of that as well.”
Senator Davis says, “Certainly, it can’t be said we are adding money to public education. I think most people in the education arena would be insulted by the assertion that’s happened here.”
On Monday, the chief financial officer at the Texas Education Agency, Shirley Beaulieu, said Texas’ public schools are $1 billion short on funding.
That’s in addition to the $2.3 billion in state payments to schools the legislature deferred two years ago in an effort to balance the budget.
The legislature is expected to add that money back in.
Beaulieu’s comment came during the trial over school financing.
At least 400 school districts sued the state after the steep cuts made during the 2011 legislative session.
The court isn’t expected to issue a ruling until after the legislative session ends in late May.
The case will likely go to the Supreme Court of Texas.
During the news conference, Lt. Governor Dewhurst said, “We’re going to have one or more courts tell us what the right number for us to put in.”
As a result, Senator West is predicting there will be a special session for school funding over the summer to deal with this issue.
Mr. West says, “The legislature doesn’t really act until we defer to the Supreme Court of Texas to tell us how we react to public school financing. I think we’re shunning our responsibility.”
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