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September 28, 2003

Strayhorn Says Redistricting is Wrong Priority

By Byron LaMasters

The two major clashes in Texas politics this year have collided. Clash number one is redistricting. Clash number two is the internal GOP bickering between Carole Keyton Strayhorn and Governor Perry and the legislature. Now, they've hit head on:

In an escalating feud with fellow Republicans, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn chided Gov. Rick Perry and GOP leaders for pursuing back-to-back sessions on redistricting instead of school finance.

"The Legislature is spending their time climbing up hills when we have a mountain looming out there," said Mrs. Strayhorn in an interview to be televised Sunday. "And the mountain looming out there is school finance reform."

Mr. Perry, who has summoned lawmakers into three special sessions to redraw the state's 32 congressional boundaries, on Friday dismissed Mrs. Strayhorn's remarks.

"Everyone has their opinion," he said. "I disagree with it."

Mrs. Strayhorn has been critical of legislative spending and is seen by some analysts as a potential rival to Mr. Perry or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the next statewide election.

In an interview for the news program Project Texas with Wayne Slater, to be aired Sunday on Texas Cable News (TXCN, Channel 38), Mrs. Strayhorn said she enjoys being comptroller, the state's chief fiscal officer. But she wouldn't rule out the possibility of challenging either of the state's top Republican leaders.

"To all those people across the state who ask me to serve, I never say never," she said.

A popular candidate who has billed herself "one tough grandma," Mrs. Strayhorn was the top vote-getter in last year's elections.
Mr. Perry on Friday stepped up his political squabble with Mrs. Strayhorn, saying he supports an effort to strip her office of two high-profile programs.

The Senate voted Thursday to transfer the comptroller's performance review and school district audit programs to the Legislative Budget Board. Backers say it will help streamline state government. Mrs. Strayhorn has said lawmakers were taking the action to punish her for speaking out.

As for redistricting, Mrs. Strayhorn said in the interview that GOP leaders have been so focused on finding a way to get more Republican seats in Congress that they have neglected the state's beleaguered system for funding public schools.

"The most important issue that this state needs to address right now is school finance," she said.

"The state has got to pick up more of the share. Homeowners have to have property tax relief, and we've got to have equity" of funding among school districts, she said. "That's a huge challenge. That's what in a real bipartisan way we've got to address and address now."

Mr. Perry said that if state leaders can reach a consensus on a new funding scheme for schools, he intends to call the Legislature back into special session early next year. Only the governor can set the agenda for special sessions.

The state's system of funding schools is under court challenge. Property-wealthy districts want to eliminate the "Robin Hood" formula that redistributes money to property-poor districts. At the same time, property-poor districts say the state needs to put more money into the system.

Texas schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, state tax dollars and some federal funds.

Some lawmakers say the extended fight over redistricting, during which House and Senate Democrats fled the state to delay adoption of a new map, has produced highly charged partisanship in the Legislature that could damage agreement on issues such as school finance.

"We definitely need to have a bipartisan arrangement," Mrs. Strayhorn said. "We need to all roll up our sleeves together and get to work on the big issue, and that's school finance."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at September 28, 2003 10:48 PM | TrackBack


So this is how the Pretty-boy/Delay gang operates if you cross them, cut you off at the knees. Not pretty.

I never thought much of "one-tuff-gramaw" but if she can slow down Delay's power-grab, more power to her.

Posted by: citizen Able at September 30, 2003 08:52 PM
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