Special Session Over, Senators Continue School Finance Work - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

05/19/04 - East Texas

Special Session Over, Senators Continue School Finance Work

That session ended earlier this week with no new plan in place to fund Texas public schools. While some term the session a failure, two East Texas state senators say a plan will start coming together.

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine: "With a thirty day window of opportunity, it's almost impossible to craft a solution in that time frame."

And there was no solution to the massive problem of Texas school finance. And East Texas Senators Todd Staples and Kevin Eltife know they'll be headed back to Austin.

Eltife: "We don't want to wake up five years from now and have less funding for education. I think we need to come up with a plan that decreases property taxes - that gives homeowners meaningful relief."

Doing that means an overhaul of the way schools raise money. Before they head back to Austin... Staples, Eltife, and other senators will meet with their House counterparts to decide. Should they raise sales taxes, expand business franchise taxes, or tax business activity?

"Whatever we do has to be broad based and it has to be fair," Eltife says.

"Any time we have something as serious as educating the children of Texas at the level we're at today, it does create a crisis situation," says Staples.

Each special session costs taxpayers too. One estimate is more than $1.5 million.. The price adds up, but the senators say a special session is the place to debate.

Staples: "Having a balanced tax system that's fair to all Texas taxpayers is something that rises to the need of taking a special look at it."

Eltife: "I don't want this buried in a regular session. I want people to know what we're voting on. I want them to know what the tax consequences are."

Staples and Eltife say the fight for the kids of Texas has just begun. It may take a while, and when a plan is hammered out, schools won't change overnight.

The senators say the current Robin Hood plan of distributing money to schools has left many struggling to make ends meet.

Eltife and Staples expect another session to be called by September to draw up a new funding plan.

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