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I was leaving the Capitol yesterday evening when I saw Chairman Pitts standing outside his office. I asked him some questions about the timeline for the supplemental appropriations bill. He told me that the bill had to lay out for six days, so any action on it is likely to be thrown into next week. I asked him if he expected any opposition to the bill. He smiled, and it was clear that he does. I asked him if he thought the opposition might come from a Democratic amendment to restore the education spending cuts. Another smile.
Some comments about the supplemental: First, it requires a simple majority to pass. Second, it has to pass. The Legislature must pay for items that were not funded during the 2011 session. Democrats have 55 votes, so they have some leverage.
Then, after I returned home, I saw this press release in my e-mail inbox:
HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS’ STATEMENT ON SCHOOL FINANCE:WE MUST ACT NOW AND RESTORE FUNDING TO PUBLIC EDUCATION
Representative Yvonne Davis, Leader of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, released the following statement on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus today regarding Judge John Dietz’s ruling on Texas’s school finance system:
Judge John Dietz’s recent ruled [sic] that Texas’s school finance system is unconstitutional. This ruling reaffirms what the House Democratic Caucus has been saying for years. Our school finance system is broken! The Legislature most act now to fix it.
Members of the House Democratic Caucus strongly urge Attorney General Greg Abbott to accept the ruling. Texas school children should not be forced to wait for relief while the state pursues a lengthy and costly appeals process.
The House Democratic Caucus will continue to provide innovative solutions. In fact. Representative Donna Howard’s 2011 amendment funded enrollment growth, but it was rejected by the Republican majority. We know what is at stake and stand ready to work with our colleagues to find a permanent solution.
Rather than continuing with the Republican agenda of massive cuts to public education, the House Democratic Caucus stands poised to meet our constitutional obligations by providing quality education to all children.
Today, the House Democratic Leader and Democratic members announce their intent to offer an amendment to the supplemental budget. This amendment will utilize the budget surplus and restore $5.4 billion in funding to public education that was cut last session as well as pursue ways to fund education this biennium.
The House Democratic Caucus remains committed and ready!
Democrats have signaled their intention to offer an amendment to restore the spending cuts. The debate on the supplemental will be a baptism by fire for the large contingent of freshmen and sophomore Republicans. That’s a $5.4 billion spending bill. Even pro-school Republicans are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place. If they vote to restore the cuts, they can be attacked as big spenders. If they vote against the Democrats’ amendment, they can be attacked as anti-education.
This is serious politics, and it could blow up the session. The Democratic strategy is going to be pretty much the same as it is in Congress: make the Republicans pay for every (bad) vote.