Working Together We Will Build A Stronger Texas
On Tuesday, I delivered my State of the State address to the 81st Legislature outlining priorities that will preserve our state’s strength and security while helping Texans weather the effects of the global economic downturn.
This session, your elected state leaders have an opportunity to build on the strong foundation we created together over the years by maintaining our focus on the people we serve and continuing our careful stewardship of the tax dollars they send us.
We will overcome big challenges like balancing the state’s budget, enhancing our state’s competitive position in the global marketplace and improving Texans’ quality of life by prioritizing the needs of our citizens over those of our parties, caucuses and special interests.
In the midst of the global economic troubles, the most important thing we can do is continue to nurture an economic environment that creates and sustains jobs for Texans. Fortunately, we have a big head start on the rest of the nation, as evidenced by our lead in exports, Fortune 500 companies and job creation.
To improve our state’s job growth, we need to improve the quality of our education at every level. As Texas leaders, we should maintain our emphasis on graduating high school students proficient in math, science and English so they are ready to enter the workforce or continue their studies. Increasing our investment in community colleges and in worker re-training programs will also fortify an essential part of our state’s workforce development efforts.
Furthermore, we need to ensure government is not unduly adding to the pressure that Texas employers are feeling these days. I am in favor of updating the reformed business tax by raising the small business exemption to $1 million. I also believe our government can do more to fine-tune regulations that sometimes choke off innovation.
In addition to reducing burdens, we should continue to invest in proven economic development efforts by replenishing the Texas Enterprise Fund, Emerging Technology Fund and our Film Incentive Program so they can continue drawing ideas, investment and jobs to Texas.
Continued investment in critical infrastructure is also essential. Efforts to repair and expand our transportation network will benefit from the decision to only spend tax dollars for the purposes they are collected. We should return to funding the Department of Public Safety from general revenue and restore gas tax dollars to their original purpose – maintaining and improving our roads.
We must also sustain our focus on protecting our citizens. Texas is still vulnerable to natural disasters, from fires and floods to hurricanes and tornadoes. Our experience in the aftermath of hurricanes Dolly and Ike reminds us that the federal government is ill equipped to respond to our communities’ needs at the necessary speed. That is why we must fund a Texas disaster contingency and relief account that will provide speedy funding for state and local emergency efforts and let the state carry the burden of waiting for federal reimbursement.
Our citizens’ safety is also threatened by cross-border crime and the increasing presence of transnational gangs in communities across the state. We must continue to fund our border security efforts and allocate additional resources to tackle the growing gang problem head-on.
Texas has come a long way since the $10 billion budget shortfall of six years ago. We overcame that challenge by making tough decisions, tightening our belts, and cutting spending where we could. All along, we stayed focused on key priorities and never forgot that the tax dollars we spend don’t pour from some mythical money pot, but the pockets of our hard-working taxpayers.
I am confident that we can maintain our state’s strength if we continue to follow the fiscal discipline we learned by necessity and have followed closely ever since.
Together, Texas leaders have fostered a climate that has attracted new families, businesses and jobs to Texas, making our great state a better place. Together, we will weather this storm and create confidence in a better tomorrow and a stronger Texas.
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