Dave McNeely: Will Texas lawmakers invest or cut taxes?

As the Texas Legislature kicked off its 140-day regular biennial session, the state’s top three leaders were touting the same message: Texas ain’t Washington.

Republican Joe Straus, just re-elected to a third term as House speaker, bragged that, “In the Texas House, we don’t put the Republicans on one side of the room and the Democrats on the other.”

Unlike Washington, “we work with our colleagues, regardless of party,” said Straus, who became speaker in 2009 with near-unanimous Democratic help to oust Republican predecessor Tom Craddick.

Editorial: Schools have strong funding case

The state’s latest school finance lawsuit is only into its first week of hearings, but this much already is clear: Poor and wealthy districts aren’t fighting each other. They are united in protesting that lawmakers aren’t adequately funding Texas schools. It is not often that you see rich and poor districts partnering in a school finance case.

Equally compelling is that suburban, urban and rural districts are making the same funding point. So are charter schools. In fact, most corners of Texas are saddling up together in this suit, in which the main contention is that legislators aren’t meeting their constitutional duty to provide resources for a decent education.

The plaintiffs have on their side the massive $5.4 billion cut that legislators took out of school budgets during the 2011 Legislature. Plus, the state has limited local districts’ ability to raise funds. In 2006, legislators put an arbitrary cap on the rate districts can charge property-tax payers without calling an election to go beyond the ceiling.

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