In the latest round of the political feud over $830 million in federal funding, House Republicans, led by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, passed a bill Saturday that attempts to block the enforcement of the Texas-specific Education Jobs amendment.
Republicans do not like the amendment, introduced by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, last summer, because it requires Texas — and only Texas — to guarantee that it will maintain state funding for education throughout 2013. Democrats support the amendment because it requires the state to use the federal money to supplement, rather than supplant, its public education funding.
Gov. Rick Perry came out in favor of the action, saying in a statement that he "hoped the U.S. Senate will also approve this measure to help right a wrong, apply equity to Texas, and quickly get $830 million to Texas schools, teachers and children."
As he urged members to reject Burgess' bill on the house floor, Doggett called it a "meaningless gesture though it does cloud up the possibility that some federal court may suggest that Texas is not entitled to any money."
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"There is a clear path to get this money," Doggett said. "All the governor needs to do is sign a three-page application, like the one he signed to get the $3.25 billion of aid he kept for purposes other than education." That $3.25 billion would be the federal stimulus money — marked for education — Perry accepted in 2009 and used to offset spending in other areas of the budget.
In a statement, Burgess said, "The schoolchildren and teachers in Texas will finally have the opportunity to receive the $830 million they should have had in the first place. This money should have never been denied when the original bill passed, and it is a shame that Mr. Doggett put education funding at risk.”
The legislation still has to make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate, where U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have sponsored a companion bill.
Update: Sarah Dohl, Doggett's spokeswoman, e-mailed with the following statement:
Just to be clear, while Republicans certainly wanted to repeal the Save Our Schools amendment introduced by the Texas Democratic Congressional Delegation last summer; their proposal does not do that. The Burgess amendment differs from the Burgess repeal legislation previously introduced. This new and different Burgess proposal does not repeal; it does not strip as Governor Perry requested and as previously proposed. This amendment merely limits use of any funds appropriated WITHIN this continuing resolution to enforce the Texas SOS provision, which remains part of existing federal law. His problem is that there are not any funds in this resolution for enforcing our Texas SOS provision
Neither Congressman Burgess nor any of his supporters offered any explanation or response to this significant defect. There are those who have asked "how did he do it," but there is another more basic question of “what did he really do.”