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Governor vetoes School Funds, calls special session

CROSBY – Representative Joe Crabb while attending the Crosby Fair & Rodeo’s Parade on June 11 was surprised to hear that he was being summoned back to Austin after the State Legislature had appropriated $1.6 billion dollars more for schools this year than last.

Despite the recall, Crabb said the session was not without its success. Over 700 bills were passed this session, which Crabb referred to as “a typical session compared with recent sessions.” Among these successes, he said, was the parental consent for abortion bill.

Crabb, who also spoke recently to the Highlands Rotary Club, said the school finance became a hot issue after it was declared illegal first by a Travis County District Court and later the Texas Supreme Court.

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry vetoed $35.3 billion in the Texas Education Agency budget and called lawmakers back for a special session to “get education funding right.”

“For all the successes of this past session, job number one was left undone when the session ended without the passage of school finance reform,” Perry said. “I’m not going to approve an education budget that shortchanges teacher salary increases, textbooks, education technology, and education reforms. And I cannot let $2 billion sit in some bank account when it can go directly to the classroom.”

Perry’s use of his line-item veto authority means legislators will have 30 days to complete the task left unfinished in the regular session that ended in May. Perry has been meeting with the leadership since then to negotiate a compromise on education reform and property tax reduction bills. The special session also will afford legislators the opportunity to fund textbook purchases for schools and classroom technology.

“Make no mistake about my message today: While I respect the deliberative process and will continue to welcome and engage in negotiations, this issue has been studied and debated long enough and now it is time to act,” Perry said.

Without a special session, about $2 billion that had been intended for teacher pay raises, education reforms and other school priorities would have gone unused instead of going to schools because House Bill 2 didn’t pass. These funds cannot be redistributed under budget execution authority, meaning they can only be spent on education if appropriated during a special session. And without additional legislative action, textbooks would remain sitting in warehouses rather than in school children’s hands.

“I recognize this is a bold step, and frankly one I wrestled with,” Perry said. “Ultimately I determined this action was necessary to ensure we fully fund our schools, provide needed reforms in the classroom, and pass real and sustainable property tax relief.”

Perry said his veto will, “deliver more, not less, for our children: more money for their teachers, more money directed to the classroom, and more results in their schools.”

Perry assured parents, teachers and school children that there is ample time for legislators to finish the task and for schools to open on schedule, with better funding, better teacher pay and, most importantly, critical reforms that will ensure more children are challenged to achieve in the classroom.

Perry also vetoed about $1.7 billion in all funds for other line-item appropriations from the 2006-07 spending bill, freeing up a portion of these funds for property tax relief or education funding and making legislators’ jobs easier in a special session.

In his veto proclamation, Perry noted that in his State of the State address in January, he said Texans have a right to an unambiguous and understandable state budget that shows how tax dollars are spent. “Senate Bill 1 continues the recent practice of combining numerous programs into enormous line items of appropriation that allow too much discretion in the use of public dollars,” Perry said in his veto statement.

“This practice restricts the ability of a governor to exercise the constitutional authority to line item veto. For instance, hidden in the Parks and Wildlife Department’s budget is $1 Million to construct bird watching facilities. Over $18 billion is appropriated to higher education in lump sums that would require the governor to veto an entire university to reject any provincial, outdated or ill-advised spending item.”

Other items in the budget that the governor vetoed are:

• $440 million for the Federal Medicare Give-Back. These are savings that the State of Texas has accrued through efficiencies in operating the “dual eligibles program” for persons who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare services.

“We are not going to turn over savings we have achieved in Texas to be spent on Washington,” Perry said. “This veto in no way jeopardizes the drug prescription benefits that Texans receive.”

A complete copy of the Governor’s line-item veto proclamation will be available at www.governor.state.tx.us.