Gov. Perry: We Must Reform, Streamline State Government
Gov. Rick Perry delivered his State of the State address today, proposing to consolidate or suspend non-critical state agencies in order to make state government more streamlined and efficient. The governor also outlined his priorities for the 82nd Legislative Session, including balancing the budget without raising taxes, preserving essential services, and strengthening Texas' position as a national economic leader through sound policies.
"As leaders, we must continue to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars and truly reform our approach to governance," Gov. Perry said. "Our discussions about streamlining state government must be followed by a willingness to act, including consolidating or suspending non-mission-critical entities until the economy improves."
Gov. Perry described the state as strong, and said taking steps to further strengthen Texas' economy remains a priority to ensure continued success, while urging lawmakers to break down barriers that prevent job creation and economic prosperity.
"The core elements of our economy are strong, and Texas is still the envy of our nation," Gov. Perry said. "Our fiscal discipline and commitment to a job-friendly environment enable us to compete with those states that put a stronger emphasis on the expansion and extension of government than on the freedom and prosperity of their citizens."
The governor pledged to continue upholding the principles that have helped Texas lead the national economic recovery and add more new jobs than any other state in 2010, including keeping taxes low, maintaining a predictable regulatory climate and fair legal system, and cultivating a skilled and competitive workforce.
Since tax dollars are better used in the hands of citizens to create jobs and prosperity, Gov. Perry reiterated his commitment to letting Texas employers and families keep more of their hard earned money by not raising taxes. He also urged lawmakers to make the 2009 small business tax relief permanent, and to protect the state's Rainy Day Fund for future emergencies.
Noting the need to further improve Texas' legal climate, Gov. Perry called for the creation of a "loser pays" system to provide stronger protections against frivolous lawsuits; the creation of an early dismissal option for frivolous lawsuits; measures to ensure new laws cannot create causes of action unless expressly established by the Legislature; and setting up expedited trials and limited discovery for lawsuits with claims between $10,000 and $100,000.
"As we increase the opportunity inherent in our economy, let's protect that opportunity by increasing the accountability, transparency and efficiency of our legal system as well," Gov. Perry said. "These loser pay legal reforms would further improve the legal and employment climates in our state, and impart even more energy, stability and security to our economy."
In order to help keep Texas economically competitive, the governor called for continued funding for the Texas Enterprise Fund, which has helped create tens of thousands of jobs for Texans and generate billions of dollars in capital investment in communities across the state. He also called for renewed funding for the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which has helped foster an environment of innovation in Texas, strengthened the state's technology industries, and attracted top researchers to Texas universities.
Gov. Perry also outlined measures to make higher education more affordable, accessible and accountable. This includes the creation of an outcomes-based funding system, in which a portion of undergraduate funding would be based upon the number of college degrees actually awarded, rather than just college enrollment, especially for at-risk students and in certain critical fields. Gov. Perry challenged institutions to utilize web-based instruction, innovative teaching techniques and aggressive efficiency measures to develop bachelor's degree programs that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks. He also renewed his call for a four-year tuition freeze at the level a student pays his or her freshman year to help make financial planning more predictable for families.
Additionally, in the absence of adequate federal resources, the governor urged lawmakers to protect Texas communities through continued funding for border security efforts. As the top exporting state in the nation, Texas depends on strong economic ties and legitimate cross-border trade with Mexico.
"We should continue our investment in border security because the threat of cross-border violence has only grown as the drug wars escalate," Gov. Perry said. "We must keep taking the fight to the vicious Mexican drug cartels, and the gangs that operate in our state on their behalf, as we support the men and women of law enforcement who remain on the front lines of this struggle."
Gov. Perry noted that while the federal government has failed to fulfill its responsibility in securing the southern border, it continues to intrude into the lives of Americans through overreaching and burdensome legislation, including policies such as Obamacare, the EPA's efforts to take over Texas' successful air permitting process, and the anti-Texas amendment to the education jobs bill. Gov. Perry thanked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for pushing back against the federal government's overreach and fighting for the best interest of Texans, and pledged to continue working to uphold the 10th Amendment.
In closing, the governor remarked that Texans' legendary resolve and innovative spirit have helped our state remain strong in the face of challenges, and that those same qualities would continue to fortify the state in the future.
"Our culture of sturdy pragmatism, forged through centuries of exploration, exertion and endurance, strengthens our resolve and equips us to overcome the challenges we face together," Gov. Perry said. "I believe this will someday be regarded as the Texas century, as our resolve, discipline and commitment to one another carry us to brighter days and blaze a path for other states and even for our federal government to follow."
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