PERRY CALLS FOR PROACTIVE FISCAL POLICY
|Lt. Gov David Dewhurst gavels in a joint session of the Legislature, gathered to hear Gov. Rick Perry's State of the State address.|
(AUSTIN) —Governor Rick Perry told lawmakers to pursue a bold financial strategy to overcome the national economic malaise in his State of the State address Tuesday. Perry said the fact that Texas remains relatively well-off economically vindicates the Legislature's past policy of fiscal conservatism. But he warned that panicking or pursuing defensive fiscal policies will not help the state through the current economic downturn. "Texas is strong because we play offense aggressively," he said. "In tough times others see threats; Texans see opportunity."
Perry began his speech by trumpeting the relative success of the Texas economy. Since 2003, he said, the state has created 1.2 million new jobs. Last fiscal year, 70 percent of all U.S. job creation has occurred in Texas. He said that past decisions to cut spending, pass sensible regulation, and pay for economic development funds have left Texas in a good position to continue economic growth.
Only by continuing business-friendly policies, he said, can the state lure new industries to Texas from other states looking to make up for budget shortfalls. "When other states are raising taxes, their businesses will be looking elsewhere for tax relief," he said. "Let's make sure they find it in Texas." He advocated continued funding of the state's economic development pools. Perry also promoted increasing the small-business franchise tax exemption to those that gross up to $1 million.
|Gov. Rick Perry speaks before a joint session of the Legislature, delivering his biannual State of the State address, urging lawmakers to maintain Texas' pro-business policies.|
While economic issues were at the forefront of the address, Perry also highlighted education, energy and security. He called for increased access to college education, pushing a freeze at the freshman tuition rate for four-years, in-state tuition for military veterans, and more money for community colleges. On the energy front, Perry asked for passage of the comprehensive state water plan, continuing to build the state's diverse energy portfolio, especially wind and nuclear, and increasing transmission capacity. Perry also advocated increasing funding for border police forces by $32 million to help them deal with the growing gang problem.
Perry ended his speech by asking legislators to work across party lines to pass laws that best serve the people of Texas. "I hope we will continually strive for the good, take part in passionate yet civilized debate, and never let the flame of our passion dwindle," he said.
Tuesday was also U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day, and two Texas senator used the occasion to promote a bill to create a state Holocaust commission. Senate Bill 482, filed by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis and Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would create the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, a 16-member board that would advise state educators on how to present and teach an accurate portrayal of the Holocaust against the Jewish people in World War II, and the dangers of ignoring genocide in the world today. Shapiro, herself a child of Holocaust survivors, said these lessons must be passed down to future generations. "Today we have an opportunity not just to say 'Never Again', but we have an opportunity to implement the lessons of 'Never Again,'" she said.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, January 28, at 11 a.m.