Health care

Catch and Release

Corrections to a tax bill could save thousands of small businesses in Texas from the gross receipts tax approved by lawmakers a year ago. Lawmakers might raise the minimum revenue requirements, letting more companies escape the new levy.

Full Story 

Crunch City

When this last break of the legislative session is over next week, there will be seven weeks left in the 80th regular session of the Texas Legislature. And you know, even if you're new to this, that the rules start killing things before the last day.

Full Story 

Record Spending, Record Restraint

A $150.1 billion state budget is on its way to the full House, which already approved another $14.2 billion spending plan for school finance. Those bills, along with a "supplement" appropriations bill to patch thin spots in the current budget, would bring state spending for the next two years to about $164.3 billion, up from $144.6 billion in the current budget.

Full Story 

Bummer, Dude

Pity Tom Pauken. The Dallas lawyer tapped to head a task force on property tax reform turned in his report in January, with plenty of time for lawmakers to work on it. The governor listed property tax reform as a priority in all of his pre-session interviews with reporters. The Guv mentioned it again in his state of the state speech.

Full Story 

Wanna Bet?

Legislation that would expand legal gambling on two fronts while also funding a quarter of a million college scholarships could go to voters if two-thirds of the Texas Legislature approves.

Full Story 

Need to Hide Something Big?

Ask Gov. Rick Perry for advice. He managed to bury headline-grabbing proposals for the sale of the state lottery, a $3 billion war on cancer, $100 million for border security, a $2.5 billion tax rebate, and health care for up to two million of the state's working poor behind a vaccine for pre-teen girls against a sexually transmitted disease.

Full Story 

Real Soon Now

The last act, usually, of the "fixin' to fixin' to" phase of every legislative session is the governor's State of the State speech. They're hard to remember, for the most part, because the Legislature has a tradition of listening politely, clapping a lot, and then ignoring some or all of the items on a given governor's wish list. But some of it gets into the wiring, and into the ears of lawmakers and even, sometimes, the public.

Full Story 

Big Mo and Little Mo

Gov. Rick Perry's appraisal reforms don't have nearly the momentum of last year's school finance package, though both came out of task forces headed by political figures and comprised of business folks. School finance was hard to crack, but the Legislature wasn't split on the need to do something. This time, you'll find disagreement on the nature of the problem and the proposed solutions. This package will be harder to pass.

Full Story 

The Agony of Relief

State spending on school tax relief could force legislators to trample constitutional limits on budget growth next year, vexing conservatives who want both tax relief and limits on government growth.

Full Story 

A Critical Weekend

If the Senate Finance Committee can make it to Monday or Tuesday of next week with four or five of the school finance components intact, there's a good chance Texans will see a new business tax, a cut in school property taxes, teacher pay raises and a bag full of other legislative wonders. But it's gonna be a long weekend.

Full Story 

Spelling R.e.l.i.e.f.

So here's a question: Does the huge budget surplus make it harder or easier to pass the governor's proposed tax bill? Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn added $3.9 billion to the $4.3 billion that was already in the surplus — and those numbers don't include about $1 billion that's already in the state's Rainy Day Fund.

Full Story 

Muddy Waters

Every so often, an experienced reporter from somewhere else will get hired into the Capitol press corps and will proceed to surprise and dominate competitors with stories that should have been obvious to the natives.

Full Story 

Just Enough

What do you call the student who finishes last in medical school? A doctor. And what do you call legislation that passes by just one vote? A law, or one step closer to it. 

Full Story 

The Bell Lap

The formula here is just as it was at the beginning of the session: Failure to get results on school finance and property cuts would be horrible news for Rick Perry, less troubling for David Dewhurst and Tom Craddick, and of very little political consequence to the average member of the Texas Legislature.

Full Story 

Begin the Beguine

It takes two to tango and two to tax, and the Senate isn't dancing with the House on revenue for school finance. Their bottom line numbers are similar. Both houses started with the idea of lowering local school property taxes by 50 cents, and that sets the size of the project. But their methods of getting to the bottom line are as different as Mars and Venus.

Full Story 

The Session in a Nutshell

It's usually best to take your medicine fast, in one ugly gulp, like mom used to say. But House leaders, apparently confident they can pass a major tax bill and an ambitious rewriting of the state's school finance system, decided to let both measures sit unprotected over a long weekend.

Full Story