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The Brief: May 25, 2011

One of the state budget's most notoriously complicated components has lawmakers — just five days from the finish line — clamoring for a fix.

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One of the most notoriously complicated components of the state budget has lawmakers — just five days from the finish line — clamoring for a fix.

The state's complex system of public school financing has beset lawmakers, who must alter the current system to account for a $4 billion cut to public education — and must find a patch quickly to avoid forcing a special session.

On Monday, a procedural objection toppled House efforts to pass finance reform. Lawmakers spent Tuesday in search of a compromise.

The more conservative House favors a plan called proration, which would cut funding to every Texas school district by 6 percent. The Senate wants higher-spending districts to take bigger cuts.

"This is a really big deal," said Sen. Steve Ogden, the Bryan Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. "We can't kick the can down the road on everything," he added, referring to the proration plan, which experts say would only buy the Legislature time until money runs out, in 2013.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, the Plano Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said lawmakers need to look "beyond their own districts" and focus on the needs of the state. She has said that no deal on school finance would undoubtedly push legislators into summer overtime.

But Gov. Rick Perry said there's still time and that negotiations between the two chambers looked promising. "I'm still optimistic that when [May] 31 rolls around," he said, "we'll be finished with our business and can go home."

Culled:

  • Immigration tops Texans' list of the most important problems facing the state, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. On the list, education has broken into the double digits, possibly reflecting the Legislature's focus on the issue. Consistent with past UT/TT polling yet still slightly incongruous with the state's politics, roughly two-thirds of Texans believe gays and lesbian relationships should be granted some form of legal recognition.
  • In a possible final nail in the coffin for sanctuary cities legislation, Senate Democrats on Tuesday night blocked a vote on the bill, which has been killed and revived several times already this session. A number of Democrats said the bill — the most controversial piece of immigration legislation the Legislature has fully debated this session — may finally be dead, but they may have to wait until Monday to start celebrating.

"I’m sure he’s thinking about it because it’s just human nature when you have Rush Limbaugh spend 20 minutes talking about you and have all these other people mention you, that you don’t sort of think that’s flattering and think about it. But I don’t see any change in his direction."Dave Carney, a political adviser to Gov. Rick Perry, on the persistent rumors of a Perry presidential bid

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