Texplainer

Texplainer: Can the Lege Overrule Perry on Education Money?

Gov. Rick Perry has said he can't sign an application to receive $10 billion in federal education aid because it requires an assurance he cannot constitutionally make: that the Lege will not use the money to offset state funding of public education.

Gov. Rick Perry delivering his State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2011
Gov. Rick Perry delivering his State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2011  Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Texplainer

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Hey, Texplainer: You always hear that the Texas governor's powers are weak. If that's true, why can't the Legislature overrule Rick Perry's decision to reject $830 million in education funds from the federal government?

The short answer: Because that's not how Congress wrote the law.

Gov. Rick Perry has said he won't sign an application to receive money from the federal government's $10 billion Education Jobs Fund because it requires him to make an assurance he cannot constitutionally make: that the Legislature will not use the money to offset state funding of public education programs. Now that they are setting the 2012-13 budget, lawmakers could, hypothetically, pass a resolution that said they would not use that $830 million in federal money to reduce the amount of state dollars going to public education. And that certainly would put political pressure on the governor to go ahead and submit the request for the funding. However, the language in the application for the funds, as Congress wrote it, requires the governor, not the Legislature, to make the assurance. 

"On a very fine legal point, it has to be the governor," says Tom Brandt, a Dallas attorney who represents local governments and school districts, adding, "The federal government didn't write this law in such a way to let the Legislature trump or make an end run around the governor."

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