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The Brief: Aug. 11, 2010

Washington dangled bait in front of Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, but the governor still isn't biting.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Washington dangled bait in front of Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, but the governor still isn't biting.

In the latest skirmish in the escalating war of legal threats between the state of Texas and the federal government, Perry sharply criticized a jobs bill signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama that included a Texas-specific funding mandate that the governor last week called unconstitutional. The $26 billion bill, which Democrats were eager to pass before the November mid-term elections, offers $830 million in aid to Texas in exchange for keeping up its education spending levels through 2013. But Perry — along with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, threatening legal action — said last week that the state constitution bars the governor from committing to future legislative spending, and he hadn't changed his tune by Tuesday.  

"It is unfortunate that Washington continues to play partisan games with Texans' tax dollars and the very future of our children," Perry said in a statement Tuesday after the bill cleared the House, which voted along party lines.

Meanwhile, the Texas provision's author, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, maintained that the language was necessary to ensure that federal funds meant for education aren't used to plug budget holes (which he and other Democrats say happened last year), and he deflected criticism that Democrats were using the bill to paint Perry as anti-education. "You can be sure that Texas is singled out by this legislation," Doggett said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "It was singled out by the governor who grabbed $3.2 billion of federal aid to education to bail out a mismanaged state government." (Ben Philpott of the Tribune and KUT News has more on Doggett's provision.)

But the status of any legal threat now depends on how the Obama administration interprets the Texas provision. The state constitution might bar Perry from committing to future spending, but a simple "promise in good faith" that the state will maintain its spending levels might do the trick, former Democratic state judge Scott McCown tells the Morning News. "If he does that," McCown says, "we get the money."

CULLED:

  • The Tribune's Ross Ramsey has a report on the complexity of Texas residency laws, which at the moment have state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, in a bind.
  • It's no voter ID, but the Driver Responsibility Program — which issues steep traffic fines and uses them to finance Texas trauma care centers — will likely ruffle some feathers in the upcoming legislative session. Lawmakers got a taste of that at a House Public Safety Committee hearing on Tuesday.

MUST-READ:

Tropical depression halts drilling at Gulf well — The Associated Press

Verbal fireworks in Commissioners CourtHouston Chronicle

UT, A&M offer buyouts to reduce facultyHouston Chronicle

McCall: "This System Is the Action" — The Texas Tribune

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