Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered his first State of the State Address to a joint session of the Texas Legislature and a packed gallery in the Texas House Chamber. During his address, the new governor laid out his agenda for the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature. He stated, as one of his emergency action items that Texas will more than double state spending on border security. His plan will add 500 new state troopers for border security.
Governor Abbott opened his remarks by laying down the foundation of Texas’ success upon which he and the Legislature will build “an even better Texas.” Abbott stated, “We are at the pinnacle of America’s economy. Texas has been number one in the nation for creating jobs for so many years, it’s hard to keep count. But in 2014 we literally outdid ourselves. We created more jobs than any year in the history of Texas.”
“Today I submitted a budget that charts a course that will keep Texas number one,” Abbott said. “Our journey begins with striving to create the best education system in America.”
“We’ve seen that we can do it,” he continued. “In Dallas, African-American and Hispanic students pass AP exams at a higher rate than anywhere in America. In the Rio Grande Valley, I visited the IDEA Weslaco charter school, where about 99 percent of the high school seniors go on to college. And I’m very proud to say that Irving ISD has been recognized as the 2015 Advanced Placement District of the Year. Irving is the best in the entire nation.”
He spoke about school funding and said it was time to stop fighting about school finance and start fixing our schools. “To improve our schools we must begin by building a strong foundation at the very beginning. Our goal should be to ensure all Texas students are performing at grade level in reading and math by the time they finish the 3rd grade.” Abbott said.
Abbott declared early education to be his first emergency item as governor. “Our children and their future have no time for delay,” the Governor expressed. He said we must keep Common Core out of Texas schools and we have to return local control back to the school districts of Texas.
Abbott referenced a three inch thick book that contains all of the laws pertaining to education in Texas. “It’s absurd to micromanage educators with all of these laws. Let’s cut it down to size by allowing school districts to opt out of parts of the education code so they can design an education plan that best fits their community needs.”
Abbott read a heartfelt message from Keisha Reily, a mother of a young student in Houston. Keisha said: “Having a school in my area that doesn’t fit my needs is frustrating. It makes me feel helpless because I want her to be in a good school and I want her to get a good education so she doesn’t have to struggle like I have.”
Abbott said parents must have more choices in their children’s education. “The truth is when parents have more options, students win.” He stated.
The Governor also addressed the need to expand higher education in Texas. He emphasized that technical colleges can be just as rewarding as a four-year college degree. “As just one recent example,” Abbott explained, “Justin Friend attended Texas State Technical College in Waco and received a two-year degree in welding. In 2013 – his first full year as a welder – his income was about $130,000. Last year, this 24-year-old’s income rose to about $140,000.”
“I’m thinking if this Governor thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to TSTC to get a welder’s certificate,” he said jokingly.
He went on to discuss expanding the university system in Texas. “The trail for this game-changing success is already being blazed,” he said. “The Chancellor’s Research Initiative at the Texas A&M System has been recruiting the world’s foremost research scholars to College Station and Prairie View A&M, including three Nobel Laureates and 11 members of National Academies.”
“Because of the vital role higher education plays in transforming our state,” Abbott declared, “I’m declaring higher education research initiatives my second emergency item.”
“With the passage of Proposition 1 this past November, Texans sent a loud and clear message that they are tired of being stuck in traffic,” the Governor said. “It’s a sad day in Texas when a guy in a wheelchair can move faster than traffic on our congested roads.”
Abbott’s budget will add more than $4 billion per year to build more roads in Texas without raising taxes, fees, rolls or debt. “This funding comes from 3 places,” Abbott explained: “One is the funding received from Proposition 1. Two, it ends diversions of state highway funds – tax dollars paid for roads should be spent on roads. Third, my plan constitutionally dedicates one-half of the existing motor vehicle sales tax to fund roads.”
“Regardless of the priorities that may exist in this Capitol, the voters made unequivocally clear their priority – they want roads funded,” he explained. “Because this funding is so essential to the people of Texas, I am declaring transportation as my third emergency item.”
“We cannot be naïve to the threat posed by drug cartels, transnational gangs and human smuggling and traffic operations,” Abbott affirmed. “In the face of such evil, we cannot respond with apathy, but resolve.”
Abbott explained that the first step in securing the border is enforcing the rule of law. He cited Monday night’s court decision that put a stop to the lawless actions of President Barack Obama. “I’m happy to report that late last night a federal judge halted the President’s executive action plan,” Abbott declared. “In Texas, we will not sit idly by while the President ignores the law and fails to secure the border.”
The Governor’s budget will more than double state spending on border security. The plan will add 500 new state troopers for border security. “By hiring more DPS troopers for border security,” the Governor explained, “it allows officers displaced from places like Longview, Lubbock and from around the state to return to their communities to keep them safe. It also expands the anti-gang efforts across the state, helping us to disrupt dangerous gangs in places like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.”
“This legislation is essential,” Abbott declared, “which is why I am declaring border security funding the fourth of my emergency items.”
Abbott order the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety Trooper to remain deployed under Operation Strong Safety until the legislature can take action on his budget requests. “As governor,” he explained, “I have identified funds to keep the National Guard in place until the Legislature acts. As soon as DPS has the permanent resources needed to secure our border, we can bring home our dedicated National Guard troops.”
Abbott honored our state and nation’s veterans and introduced the nation’s oldest living World War II veteran. “No generation represents that more than the greatest generation – those who brought us through World War II,” Abbott stated. “Few of those heroes remain, but one is with us today. I’d like to recognize a special guest, who at 108 years young is our nation’s oldest World War II veteran. Ladies and gentlemen, a great Texan, Mr. Richard Overton.”
Abbott proposed exempting new businesses that are created by veterans from having to pay state registration fees to open their businesses and to exempt them from paying state franchise taxes for the first five years. He called on the Legislature to waive licensing exams and fees for veterans with eductation, training and practical experience gained from military service. “If the training you received as an electrician, a technician or some other job meets the standard of the United States military,” Abbott stated, “it should be good enough for the State of Texas.”
“We must also do more for our veterans who return broken from battle,” the Governor declared. “Not all wounds are seen. My budget includes funding to provide mental health screenings to veterans and service members to help them deal with some if their deepest wounds.”
“It’s not just our veterans who need better access to health care,” he said in transition. “We also need to provide more funding for women’s health programs for more access to care like cancers screenings and checkups. My budget does that. My budget also increases funding for screening and treatment for post-partum depression.”
Abbott proposed increasing the number of residency positions that are funded by the state. He also proposed more funds to help seniors and people with disabilities receive in-home care attendants.
“While our job creation is legendary,” Abbott stated, “many states are overhauling their economic development programs to compete with Texas. We will rise to the challenge by making the Texas Enterprise Fund more efficient, more effective and more transparent to help grow even more jobs in Texas.”
“If a business receives a grant from the Enterprise Fund, taxpayers must know that the decision was based only on merit,” he declared.
Abbott proposed permanently reducing the business franchise tax as the best way to create more jobs.
The Governor flatly stated he will reject any budget that does not include genuine tax relief to Texas employers and job creators. He also called for reduction in property taxes. “It’s time for property owners – not government – to truly own their property,” Abbott said. He cautioned that tax rate reductions must not be allowed to evaporate by escalating property values.
DEBT AND SPENDING:
Abbott declared that we must begin the process of creating a structure of paying down the State’s debt. He said we must also constrain the expansion of state government. “Many of us have ridiculed states like California and Illinois as bastions of failed big government. You’ll be surprised to learn that Texas has more full-time state employees per capita than California and Illinois.” He said that must change and called upon state leaders to cut their general revenue spending by three percent. He called for hiring freezes and reductions in fuel and travel expenses.
“To lead by example,” he said, “I’m cutting the Governor’s office budget by more than ten percent. I can do it. I know every other agency can do it, too.”
“The more we restrain the growth of government, Abbott stated, “the more we will empower hardworking Texans. These budget cuts will make our budget even leaner while helping us prioritize spending that will make our state even stronger.”
“Let me briefly follow up on a word I mentioned a moment ago – liberty,” Abbott said. “In a single word, it encapsulates what this country stands for, what Texas symbolizes. I will expand liberty in Texas by signing a law that makes Texas the 45th state to allow Open Carry.”
Repeating a campaign promise to address transparency and ethics in state government, Abbott said, “Let’s dedicate this session to ethics. I want to work with you to strengthen the faith and the trust Texans deserve from us. It’s a reminder of who we work for – the citizens of Texas.”
“In my Blueprint for the future of Texas, I outlined multiple ethics reforms,” he explained. “Things like requiring elected officials to disclose contracts they have with public entities, prohibiting lawmakers from voting on legislation from which they could profit and more disclosure of campaign finance information.”
“The most important commodity we have as elected officials is the bond we share with our constituents,” the Governor stated. “Transparency – and rising above even the appearance of impropriety – will strengthen that bond. Rejection of ethics reform will weaken that bond and rightfully raise suspicions about who we truly serve – ourselves, or the people of Texas.”
Abbott added these items to his emergency legislation request and said, “Many of you have heard me say that our lives are not defined by how we are challenged; instead they are determined by how we respond to the challenges we face. That principle applies to us this session.”
The Governor concluded his remarks by restating his legislative priorities: the need for better schools, more roads, border security, better healthcare, more jobs. They want more liberty and less government, and they deserve ethics reform.
“We can’t let their future be defined by these challenges,” Abbott concluded. “Instead it is our responsibility to work together and response to these challenges. Texas needs us to succeed. America needs us to succeed. Working together, we will keep Texas the leading state in this nation.”
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.