ABBOTT LAYS OUT PRIORITIES IN ADDRESS
|Governor Greg Abbott delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature Thursday.|
(AUSTIN) — Governor Greg Abbott delivered his first State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature Tuesday, highlighting issues he wants lawmakers to concentrate on for the session. He opened the door for legislation by naming five emergency issues. The Constitution precludes the House or Senate from passing legislation in the first sixty days of the session unless the Governor declares an issue an emergency. The issues that will now be open to both chambers are: early education, higher education research initiatives, border security, transportation funding and ethics reform.
Abbott also presented his budget proposal at Tuesday's speech. Though the Legislature will write the state budget for the next two years, the Governor's proposed budget informs lawmakers where the executive office's priorities lie. The Governor also wields some budget authority in the form of a veto pen, and Abbott cautioned legislators that he would reject any budget that doesn't include property and franchise tax relief. His budget would split $4 billion in tax cuts evenly between franchise and property tax cuts. The proposed Senate budget would spend the same amount for tax cuts, but would prioritize $3 billion for property tax cuts and a billion dollars for franchise tax cuts.
Many of the priorities laid out by Abbott already align with Senate legislative priorities. Abbott called for record levels of funding to increase the permanent DPS presence on the border. The Senate Budget includes more than $800 million for that purpose. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said last week that the Texas National Guard presence on the border should remain while DPS prepares to take over sole state responsibility for border security. Abbott announced Tuesday that he has ordered the Texas National Guard to do just that.
Road and bridge funding in the Senate proposed budget also lines up with Abbott's transportation priorities. Abbott's budget would use funding from last year's transportation ballot measure and would end diversions from the state highway funds to pay for other areas in the budget, two provisions which are included in the Senate budget proposal. Abbott also called for using a portion of the state motor vehicle sales tax to pay for transportation construction, which mirrors a bill filed last week by Jacksonville Senator Robert Nichols.
While Abbott can ask for legislation, it is up to the Senate and House to make the Governor's priorities a reality. By adding issues to his emergency agenda, Abbott does help bills begin moving through the legislative process. While other bills must wait until mid-March before coming up for votes in the Legislature, bills related to emergency issues can benefit from increased media exposure and legislative attendance. By getting out early, many of these bills can avoid the press that comes from the large amount of legislation that is typically considered at the end of the session.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, February 18 at 10:30 a.m.