Remarks to the Hispanic Contractors Association
Thank you Denise, it is always good to be introduced by a friend and appointee. Thanks also to Frank Fuentes for your invitation to be with the Hispanic Contractors Association today.
I’m pleased to be traveling today with TxDOT’s newest Assistant Executive Director and former Pharr District Engineer Amadeo Saenz. After the great work he’s done in South Texas, and his rapid response to the tragic collapse of the Queen Isabella Causway, I think TxDOT made a wise move promoting him to Mike Beherens old job – one of the most important positions are the agency.
Thank you Amadeo. I also know my friends and appointees Massey Villareal and Gilbert Herrera are here. You all are doing fine jobs on the department of Economic Development Board and the General Services Commission board and I appreciate you being here today.
It’s a tremendous honor to be in the company of the hard-working business owners and entrepreneurs of Texas. You sweat and toil every day to create opportunities for your fellow citizens, you support your local schools as an important part of the tax base, and you are the engine of the economy.
In the days and weeks since that dark day in America, I have seen a side of our people that gives me great hope that the fabric of this nation is whole. Terrorists can crumble our buildings, but they will never crumble our spirit. They may wound our hearts, but they will never weaken our will.
Everywhere I go, I see Texans moving forward with their lives, not in an attempt to forget the unforgettable, but to show the forces of evil that we will not willingly surrender the blessings of freedom.
And Texas is not standing still in this fight. I appointed the “Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security” to asses this state’s ability to deter attacks, and to respond to an attack if one should ever occur on Texas soil.
We have also deployed members of the Texas National Guard to dozens of Texas airports. Early reports are that this has had a calming effect on the flying public, and Texans are getting back to flying and trying to get back to some semblance of their normal routine.
I want Texans to know that while terrorism could strike at any moment, we’re taking every precaution we can to stop them, and to protect the lives and liberty of our citizens.
It has been an exciting eleven months in office as your governor. The 2001 legislative session was a great success. We recognized that education is the critical foundation for success in life, and the great social equalizer, because it recognizes no race, ethnicity or creed.
We have seen reading scores increase after focusing greater resources on early childhood literacy. In an economy dominated by technology, we must now do for math what we have done for reading.
The Math Initiative I proposed this last session will help transform our math classrooms. It provides teachers with greater scientific tools to teach math, while also giving struggling students extra help so they can catch up. It provides diagnostic testing tools to identify learning challenges, and rewards expert math teachers with a $5,000 increase in their annual salaries.
It means more children will enter high school confident to take on algebra, instead of frustrated by increasingly difficult equations.
Fifty percent of all new jobs require technology skills. Not only will math help our young students so they are prepared for the opportunities of the future, but so will the expansion of engineering and computer science programs at our institutions of higher learning.
But before we can teach our young Texans at our colleges in universities, we need to make sure they can afford to attend.
We tripled funding of The TEXAS Grant Program to $300 million this past session recognizing that no child should be destined to underachieve simply because their family lacks the resources to pay for college.
100,000 young Texans will be able to pursue their dreams because they will be able to attend college.
This worthwhile program says to those deserving young Texans, “we don’t want your future to be limited because your finances are limited.”
As the son of tenant farmers in rural West Texas, I know the value of a college education. It opened the door of opportunity to me, and I want every young Texan with strong resolve and a fertile mind to be able to pursue whatever dreams they may have.
I have also made transportation a priority. Building roads, highways and transit systems not only means jobs for engineers, contractors, and those in the construction trades – infrastructure has always meant greater public safety and economic opportunity for the future.
In the 1950s, for example, President Dwight Eisenhower set out to improve national security, public safety and job creation by promoting one of the most massive engineering and construction projects ever undertaken…the creation of the U.S. Interstate Highway System.
Reliable roads, highways and bridges connecting city to city, and business to business, have been an instrumental part of American success for close to half a century.
In the last two legislative sessions, the Texas budget contained more than $2 billion in increased transportation funding – a total of $17 billion in funding. But we’re still falling behind.
Since 1960, our population has increased 102 percent, and travel on roads and highways has increased 375 percent. Spending per vehicle mile is now 68 percent below what it was that year.
So as November 6th approaches I have two requests of this groups and of Texas voters. First, and most importantly, exercise your freedom as Americans by exercising your constitutional right to vote.
Secondly, when Texans do exercise their right to vote, I would ask that they say “yes” to propositions 2 and 15. Two and 15 sounds like a losing football record, but it’s not, it’s a winning combination for Texas’ future.
Currently only 36 percent of the state’s infrastructure needs are currently funded. Even my Aggie Math tells me that means close to two-thirds of all needed projects are therefore put off or shelved.
Crowded roads hurt our economy and lead to accidents. In 1999, Texas led the nation with more than 3,500 highway fatalities…over half of which occurred on our rural roads.
With NAFTA, our roads are experiencing exponential increases in truck traffic. NAFTA is good for business, but only if we have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of it.
Better infrastructure equals a better quality of life.
Texans are tired of highway traffic making them late for a meeting, late for a child’s soccer game or baseball game, or miss dinner with the family.
Proposition 15 provides needed relief through alternative financing ideas like road bonds. It also means funds raised locally are more likely to stay in local hands, so government closest to the people can make decisions on projects most important to the people.
Proposition 2 means better roads for some of our poorest citizens living along the border in sub-standard developments known as colonias.
Colonia roads are so poor that after a heavy downpour, emergency vehicles, postal trucks and school buses cannot get to residents. How can we ask our children to reach for the stars if they cannot even reach the classroom?
Proposition 2 will help build new roads and highways in our border region and in our border colonias, improving health, safety and job creation for all of Texas.
We’re not trying to get rid of our pay-as-you go system, but build upon it, without raising taxes.
Let me close today with a commitment. As Governor, I will continue to make transportation a priority and continue to insist that our state government is open and accessible to small, start-up and minority –owned businesses.
I support the state’s HUB program and the philosophy of increasing opportunities for competent and cost-effective businesses that really need help.
I believe TxDOT is on the right track - increasing outreach and education to smaller contractors and businesses.
TxDOT did $443 million dollars worth of business with HUBs last year, exceeding the goal and accounting for nearly half of the state’s HUB spending. Thirty-eight percent of those dollars went to Hispanic businesses, exceeding the statewide average.
TxDOT reaches out through one-on-one vendor meetings, mentoring programs, and HUB forums with chambers of commerce like TAMACC. They have a representative here today to answer you questions about new policies and laws to increase your access to state business.
One such law is House Bill 1138, which I signed earlier this year. This new law allows TxDOT to accept bid bonds – making life easier for smaller contractors seeking to do business with the state.
As we seek to improve even more, I will continue seek out the wise counsel of people like Amadeo Saenz, Massey Villareal and Gilbert Herrera.
As Governor, my door will be open to you – to your ideas and proposals to make Texas a better and stronger state.
As leaders in the business community, you create jobs and opportunity for your fellow citizens, and in the process make a great contribution to society.
It’s an honor to serve as your Governor. Thank you and may God bless Texas and America.
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