Wednesday, July 06, 2005

One of Those Nights

House Bill 3 passed on second reading in a squeaker tonight. At first, opponents of the "finance" part of the school finance package had the upper hand on a vote of 74-73, but someone called for a verification of names. The subsequent roll call revealed that Rep. Trey Martinez-Fisher (D-San Antonio) and Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) were absent. The bill then passed 73-72.

By the end of the nearly eight hours of debate and amendments on the bill, some Republicans succumbed to a frenzy of taxation like foxes let loose in a hen house. Even many of his colleagues were sickened by Stephenville Republican Rep. Syd Miller's attempt to raise the sales tax on electricity. That amendment went down by more than 100 votes.

Still, as Rick Caseynotes in today's Chronicle you have to earn more than $100,593 to get a tax cut out of HB 3. If you earn about $52,000, you'll end up paying 3 percent more in taxes. The bill as it stands now is inequitable and ineffective. Shifting the burden to sales tax and other regressive taxes will shaft the middle class, the poor, and particularly renters. It could do damage to both the economy and the future of the state. What's worse, the bill does jack for education.

In the best tradition of Texas independence, there were a number of Republicans who balked at supporting their leadership's Frankenstein. They were Rep. Toby Goodman (R-Arlington), Rep. Bob Griggs (R-North Richland Hills), Rep. Pat Haggerty (R-El Paso), Rep. Glen Hegar (R-Katy), Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville), Rep. Bob Hunter (R-Abilene), Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), Rep. Brian McCall (R-Plano), Rep. Tommy Merritt (R-Longview), Rep. Elvira Reyna (R-Mesquite), Rep. Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton), Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), and Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller).

The House, under Craddick's hard hand, then relatively quickly passed House Bill 1, the appropriations bill, and adjourned, but not before they killed an amendment by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) to pay for textbooks.