The first obstacle in George W. Bush’s drive for president is a Republican woman—not potential GOP rival Elizabeth Dole, but a member of his own Texas team, state comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander. Some Bush insiders were peeved aplenty when Rylander slashed $700 million from prevailing estimates of how much money the Legislature can spend over the next two years. Read her lips: The reduction probably means no new property-tax cut of $2 billion, something Bush campaigned for during his bid for reelection last fall—and the kind of credential that would impress national GOP voters. With the state’s surplus reduced to $5.6 billion, there isn’t enough money to cover essential services such as public school enrollment growth and the opening of new prisons and have enough left to reimburse local school districts that reduce their property taxes, as Bush had hoped to do. Is Rylander right, or is she grandstanding? John Sharp, her predecessor who produced the $6.3 billion estimate, had already taken into account that the state’s economy would cool off, assuming, for example, that the annual growth of sales tax collections would slow from 10.3 percent to 6.5 percent. Rylander reduced that still further to 5.6 percent. It’s a small difference, but it could have a big impact on the Republican presidential race.
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