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Texas Governor Vetoes School Budget

June 21, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The Texas Legislature began a 30-day special session Tuesday in the fourth attempt by lawmakers since 2003 to overhaul the way the state’s schools are funded.

In 1989, the Texas Supreme Court threw out the state’s school funding law after finding ``glaring disparities″ between rich and poor school districts. Lawmakers later forced property-rich school districts to share some wealth with poorer ones in what came to be called the ``Robin Hood″ plan.

After a trial brought by 300 districts, both rich and poor, a judge ruled last year the education funding system was unconstitutional, agreeing with the districts that they didn’t have enough money to provide an adequate education. The state has appealed the ruling.

Legislators have acknowledged that the state will have to foot more of the bill for education. But agreeing on how to raise the additional tax revenue has proved difficult.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry vetoed $35.3 billion in education spending in an effort to force lawmakers to resolve the issue during a special session, something they failed to do during the last two regular sessions and a special session last year.

The governor offered his own plan Tuesday that would provide $7 billion in school property tax relief, while raising the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 6.95 percent, increasing the cigarette tax and closing loopholes in the business tax.

If lawmakers fail to reach agreement again, many schools may not have enough money to open their doors when the new school year for Texas’ 4.3 million students starts in August.

The quagmire is a threat to Perry, who is seeking re-election to a second full term in 2006. The governor said he is confident lawmakers will devise a plan and said he was prepared to keep lawmakers in session all summer, if necessary.

``We’re going to be here until we get this right,″ Perry said.

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