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Perry delivers State of the State address

Opening his seventh State of the State address, Gov. Rick Perry told the 83rd Texas Legislature “it is my pleasure to report that the state of our State is stronger than ever.”  Noting Texas’ economic strength in relation to other U.S. states, Perry said, “We led the nation out of recession and into recovery, and remain the nation’s prime destination for employers and job-seekers alike.”

Specifying classrooms to assembly lines, laboratories to farms and in office buildings, Perry proclaimed “hard-working Texans are today turning their dreams into realities” by “launching a new business, harnessing creativity and new technology to create something the world has never seen before.”  “Big and small, dreams become reality in Texas,” the governor said to a Texas Legislature joint session from the Texas House floor.

After noting and thanking officials from companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, XCOR, Pactiv and Green Plate Kitchen that are “reaching for the stars in their own way, right here in Texas,” the governor commended various public officials for what he called realizing “a simple truth: bureaucracy doesn’t stimulate the economy, it gets in the way.”

Texas needs to not “just maintain the status quo, we have to improve upon it,” the governor said, “We’re in a position today to put our financial house in order, and it’s time to do so.”

With that, Perry called on the legislature to use this session to “true up our budget and move away from the budgetary techniques we’ve come to depend on all too often.”  “We need to pay now what is due now,” he said.

He called for a stronger constitutional limit on spending growth saying we must ensure “it never grows more than the combined rate of inflation and population.”

A continued effort to “scrub the budget for any waste and redundancies, streamlining wherever possible” was another named priority along with curtailing the practice of “using dedicated funds and specific fees for anything other than the purpose for which they were intended.”

Perry echoed his prior position for maintaining a strong Rainy Day Fund to “ensure we had a sufficient amount in reserve in case of disaster, and to ensure Texas maintains its strong credit rating,” however, he gave support to using $3.7 billion from the fund for a one-time investment in infrastructure programs.

“What I am proposing will support critical water and transportation systems across our state, addresses our needs both short- and long-term, and ensures both water and traffic will continue to flow in Texas for generations to come,” the governor said.

He also called for ending “the diversion of State Highway Fund appropriations, which will mean another $1.3 billion every biennium for road maintenance and construction.”

Perry said that “while Texas is a low-tax state, let’s make the burden on Texans even lower.”  To that end, he wants to make permanent the franchise tax exemption for small businesses.

A mechanism “so when we do bring in more than we need, we’ll have the option of returning tax money directly to the people who paid it” was another legislative priorities he named saying that our constitution currently has no such provision – and “we need to fix that.”

In his speech, Perry announced a new Tax Relief for Texans Estimator page on the Office of the Governor web site which invites Texans to share their “tax relief formula” with Gov. Perry’s office.

The governor discussed how Texas’ approach to governance is “even more important as Washington raises taxes and the costs of the Affordable Care Act begin to pile up.”  He re-affirmed that Texas “will not expand Medicaid under the ACA” nor will it set up a state exchange.

“Texas will not drive millions more into an unsustainable system, and that stance has not changed an iota,” Perry said.

Regarding public education, Perry spoke of how “not every child learns for the same purpose, not every child thrives in the same settings and schools.”  “Limiting a child to just one opportunity does nothing more than limit that child’s future,” he said.

In terms of education reform action, Perry highlighted needs for more public charter schools offering parents a tuition-free alternative to their neighborhood school as well as scholarship programs giving students – especially those locked into low-performing schools – a choice.

Giving students more flexibility in the courses they take in high school to ensure rigorous academic standards while preparing them for whatever their post-high school goals may be was another of Perry’s education goals.

Regarding higher ed, Perry continued his support of developing $10,000 degree plans and reminded detractors that 13 Texas universities have announced plans such degrees.

He also called for a four-year tuition freeze for incoming freshmen that will provide a four-year lock on the rate paid their first semester.

Perry also suggested tying minimally 10 percent of colleges’ and universities’ state funding to their number of graduates.  “We need to encourage these schools to get their students educated and ready to work as quickly as possible,” he said.

To that end, he also announced an initiative for industries, technical and community colleges to collaborate in creating a statewide model enabling students to swiftly earn technical certifications at an affordable cost.  With such a fast-track program, individuals can attain technical certifications in high-demand industries utilizing competency-based learning to allow gaining credit for already mastered skills.

Noting South Texas as an area in which things are dramatically and quickly changing, Perry encouraged the legislature to pass, by a two-thirds vote, a bill necessary to give South Texas access to the Permanent University Fund.

Perry closed his speech saying “Texas is not merely strong, but exceptional” calling the state “a testament to the power of freedom, to the entrepreneurial spirit unleashed from government interference.”

These ideals, he said “are sturdy enough and strong enough to advance any and all Texans, regardless of race, color or creed.”

Reminding of Texas’ “can do culture,” Perry said:  “Those ideals propel us forward as we stand as a national example that hard work can breed success regardless of one’s station in life, that freedom is the best antidote to poverty, and that each individual deserves to inherit a state of equality and opportunity.”

Though some are calling the speech light on hot-button issues, Americans for Prosperity-Texas State Director Peggy Venable termed it as outlining a plan for the Lone Star State which will keep Texans working and continue to build our economy.

“Tax relief and school choice are issues Texans can get excited about,” Venable said in a released statement.

“Gov. Perry announced a plan to provide taxpayers with tax relief of $1.98 billion over this biennium.  Returning a surplus to the taxpayers is important.  Taxpayers spend our money better than government does.”

Venable additionally noted that as Texas is the top state for job creation and more businesses move to Texas than any other state, Americans for Prosperity believes Texas is a living testament to the power of prosperity fueled by free enterprise.

Expanded charter schools and more school choice top of AFP-Texas’ legislative agenda as also does making a college education more affordable.  “We call on legislators to join the Governor in focusing on the important special interest group – our students,” Venable said.

AFP supports the governor’s position to not expand Medicaid, set up state exchanges or otherwise “drive millions more into an unsustainable system which will bankrupt this state.”  Venable reminds that every government program places costs on taxpayers.

“Decisions made today will determine what Texas looks like 40 years from now and future Texans are counting on prudent fiscal policies being enacted,” the statement says.

“We will be looking closely at how the leadership plans to build infrastructure in Texas.  Providing infrastructure for water and roads are an appropriate role of government and could be a prudent investment in the future of our state and our economy.”

“The Texas economy is the envy of the country and the Governor is staying the course to keep Texas an economic leader,” Venable said.  “Freedom is indeed the best anecdote to poverty.”

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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