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Governor Bush Katie Adams EDITORIAL Texas Taxes and the White House The crude political dynamics of the tax-reform fight about to consume the 75th Legislature are easy to understand If Governor Bush prevails, he can run for governor in 1988 and the Republican presidential nomination in 2000claiming to have reformed the states burdensome tax system and lowered taxes at the same time If Bush tax reform initiative fails, Democratic Comptroller John Sharp, whose office is expected to provide the numbers by which Bush will fix the tax system and who is also interested in running for governor in 1988 wins. Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, presiding over the first Republican Senate since Reconstruction, doesn’t believe there is a property tax crisis and coyly asks why he is expected to sell the Governor’s proposal to a Republican Senate majority. House Speaker Pete Laney, who was enraged in mid-November when Bush failed to consult him before publicly promising a billion dollars from surplus funds for tax reliefand is still angry because Republicans went out of their way to recruit a challenger for him in the last electionlacks enthusiasm for the issue and says he’s more concerned that the State of Texas is about to put eighty-year-olds out on the street because of new welfare funding formulas. Many legislators don’t like the Governor’s package because if it passes he gets the credit, and if it fails they get the blame. The legislation must be passed early, because the entire budget process will be put on hold until it is complete. Several tax-reform components are constitutional amendments, which require a two-thirds majority in both houses. Whatever passes is certain to result in a court challenge. And House Public Education Committee Chair Paul Sadler warns that even a slight change in property tax rates will drastically alter the delicate equalize school funding. It’s that simple. The only reason legislators are not already extending their Austin condo leases through August, in anticipation of a special session that would follow the May adjournment of the regular session, is that a special session on school taxes would also be a special session on the budget. Democratic State Party Chair Bill White doesn’t think the Governor has the backbone \(or the cartithe state’s budget hostage. “I predict he’ll get weak at the knees,” White has said of the Governor on several occasions. Recent statements by Bullock and Laney suggest the Democrats might be testing Bush’s knees. “He doesn’t have a plan,” Bullock told Texas Monthly in early December. “He just has ideas. He says he’ll give us an outline. When you pass a tax bill, you better know what you’re doing because Texas is stuck with it for a long, long time.” Laney, according to one Capitol staffer, was “so angry he was shaking” when he learned from news sources that Bush had pledged a billion dollars for tax relief after maintaining for months that his proposal would be “revenue neutral.” So the Speaker went after Bushin private and in the press. In November, he told the Governor to stop listening to his political advisers JANUARY 17, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3