Thank you. You honor Anita and I by being here tonight. We want to welcome each of you to the people’s home: the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
When the talk of a special session gets started, the predictions of doom and gloom seem to fill the air. But I see this session as a great opportunity.
It is an opportunity to pass meaningful tax reform that will improve our tax system, an opportunity to lower property taxes and make home ownership more affordable, an opportunity to provide a more stable source of revenue for our schools, and an opportunity to come together in a bipartisan fashion to do what’s best for Texas.
There are those who say we can’t overcome the differences of the past sessions, or hard feelings over recent elections. Those same people probably also never thought John Sharp and I would ever work together again.
To be fair, a year ago I might have said the same thing. But after a while you get tired about being bitter toward someone you used to call a friend.
John and I met 38 years ago in the Cadets Dorms at Texas A&M. We had one thing in common, we were both scared to death of what a bunch of mean upperclassmen would do to us without adult supervision. So we stuck together and became fast friends. We would visit each other’s hometowns on the weekends, drink lots of cups of water together at the Chicken, and play a practical joke or two together on our mutual enemies.
Over the years, our friendship grew, that is until he decided to run against me for Lieutenant Governor.
And you know how hard-fought campaigns can be: things get said, feelings get hurt, and the press plays up conflict. He attacked a loan program administered by the Ag Department and I attacked his smoke and mirrors budget maneuvers. He attacked my votes on tax bills, and I simply pointed out that, hey, I was a Democrat back then. I released endorsements from Nolan Ryan and Ben Crenshaw, and he derided them as my “athletic supporters.” By the end of the campaign we were even arguing over whose vote triggered the release of a bunch of dangerous felons.
But there comes a point where you just have to let it all go. And John and I have done that. And we’re better off for it…and because of it, we have come up with the best plan we believe has ever been offered to make our tax system fairer.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we put down political swords, lock arms and march forward together.
I know there are tough votes ahead. I know a good bill for one member’s district may not be as good for another’s. But I ask you to also think of the interest of this entire, diverse place we call Texas.
Sometimes events collide in such a way to provide the right opportunity to do what hasn’t been done before. With several months of rising revenues behind us…a court deadline in front of us…broad support from businesses to get this done: it is clear this our best opportunity yet.
To my Democrat friends who said let’s avoid raising the sales tax, today I say we have your plan.
To my Republican friends who said let’s provide a record property tax cut for over-taxed homeowners and employers, today I say we have your plan.
And to my friends on both sides of the aisle who said we need a broader business tax that captures the modern economy, today I say we have our plan.
It may not be a perfect plan, and I respect the legislature’s prerogative to work its will. Just know my door is open to any member of this body as we try to get this done. It has to be a bipartisan effort, and I am convinced it can be as it has since the day I appointed John Sharp to chair this commission.
Let’s get’er done.
Please join me in welcoming my friend and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, David Dewhurst.
Please welcome the Speaker of the Texas House, with whom I was proud to serve in the 1980’s, Tom Craddick.
Please welcome the chairman of the Texas Tax Reform Commission, John Sharp.
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