Gov. Perry: Now is the Time to Invest in Texas’ Future Infrastructure
Almost didn't make it here on time, the traffic was really awful.
That's a terrible joke, but for a second there, you probably didn't know if I was kidding or not.
Such is the state of roads in a wildly-successful economy.
It's hard to apologize for it, though.
Our population continues to grow by more than a thousand people a day, looking for jobs and their share of the American dream in a state that makes those dreams more attainable.
And it's not just people who are picking Texas as their new home, either.
Our business climate continues to attract employers, large and small, seeking to relocate and expand.
Just a week or so ago, we got the news that Borusan Mannesmann, a global leader in steel pipe construction based in Turkey, would be building its first U.S. factory right here in Texas.
Baytown will be home to the facility, along with 250 jobs and $148 million in capital investment.
A week before that, GlaxoSmithKline and Texas A&M announced they were teaming up in the creation of a $91 million, state-of-the-art facility for the development and manufacture of cutting-edge influenza vaccines.
If you've been in town in the last few days and know a techie, you've probably also heard that Google has selected Austin as the next city for its Google Fiber service, which will bring super-high-speed Internet at competitive rates.
Combined with the existing digital infrastructure already put in place by providers like AT&T, Grande and Time Warner, this helps affirm Central Texas as the most logical location for start-ups and research firms who want to grow and thrive.
Visionary companies like Facebook, EA, Samsung and Apple aren't going to stop coming to Texas anytime soon, as long as we remain committed to the fiscally conservative policies that have helped us reach the top of the economic mountain.
Our low taxes, reasonable regulations, fair courts and world-class workforce have become a big part of what Texas is all about, and I can't see us changing that basic formula anytime in the foreseeable future.
Our efforts to support the new generation of entrepreneur, through programs like the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, have further diversified our industry portfolio, and captured the attention of publications and broadcasters as the gold standard of how to do business.
That, in turn, attracts the attention of CEOs and industry decision makers from across our country, many in high-tax, high-regulation states like California and Illinois who were already looking for a better way to do business.
So Texas is blessed with an abundance of interest and an abundance of people.
The results of that blessing can be found jammed into our highways during rush hour across the state, or along our interstates between those cities that are the lifeblood of our economy, and in our status as the nation's top exporter for 11 years running.
Every hour stuck in traffic is an hour missed with our families, an hour spent not living the life we've all worked so hard to build.
And congested roads are only part of the problem.
Innovative drilling methods have opened up vast new areas of Texas to gas and oil production in Shale Fields like Barnett in the north and Eagle Ford down south.
This thriving industry is employing thousands, but also putting a strain on the roads in those regions, roads that simply were not built for that level of industry.
So, again, as we celebrate our success, we have to take steps to ensure we can sustain that success.
We don't want to become another example of the wildly successful restaurant Yogi Berra once criticized "Nobody goes there anymore, It's too crowded."
We're at a crossroads in Texas, and we have arrived at a moment of great possibility in our state's history.
Our booming economy has left us with a solid financial foundation upon which to build sound infrastructure for the next half-century.
The fragile nature of our nation's economy has resulted in historically low interest rates, and nobody believes that can go on indefinitely.
In fact, we all have to prepare for the probability that interest rates will skyrocket.
Because Texas has been so vigilant in our stance against unnecessary spending, and because we've kept our debt to a minimum, we are in a unique position.
We can take advantage of these historically low interest rates, and use long-term bonds to capitalize an ongoing, revolving infrastructure fund.
This will enable us to avoid the high interest rates that are almost certainly coming soon, and begin projects now before the price of construction takes another giant leap forward.
In essence, we can lock in these projects at the interest rates and construction costs of today when the cost of both are significantly cheaper than they will be in the very near future.
This isn't a matter of choice anymore, either we have to take on the challenges of our transportation infrastructure much more aggressively than we have in the past.
Over the years, we've come up with solutions that solved individual transportation challenges in a variety of ways.
But we have to think bigger.
That's why, during my State of the State address, I called for utilizing money from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment of billions in infrastructure programs.
I also called for an end to the diversion of State Highway Fund appropriations, which would mean billions more for road maintenance and construction.
We're making progress in those initiatives, and talks are ongoing.
We have to continue to think outside the box, and consider new ways to fund transportation.
For example, on every car or truck sold in the State of Texas, we take in sales tax.
With the rapid growth of our population and our healthy economy, the amount we take in on those sales is increasing steadily.
I propose we dedicate the future growth in sales taxes collected on motor vehicles to transportation infrastructure.
Now, this is not a new tax, and it is not a new fee.
The sales tax rates would remain the same, and the money would still be collected, either way.
What this will do is take a portion of future sales taxes collected on motor vehicles and dedicate it to a more productive, efficient experience for the people buying those cars in the first place.
We need to find big solutions to our transportation challenges.
Now is the time.
By using strategic debt management, enhancing the existing infrastructure fund, ending Highway Fund diversions, investing Rainy Day Funds and future sales tax collections, Texas would be able to capitalize more than $41 billion in transportation projects over the next 20 years.
That should be enough to make major improvements and keep traffic flowing in the Lone Star State for the next several decades, at least.
You know as well as I do that strengthening our infrastructure will improve the flow of goods throughout our start, reduce the wear and tear on vehicles, personal or business, and improve our quality of life to a degree you really can't measure in dollars and cents.
It's also important to remember that a big part of convincing employers to come to Texas is convincing them we'll have adequate electricity, water and transportation infrastructure to fit their needs.
Now is the time to make sure we do.
Now is the time to do the fiscally responsible thing and make our state more accessible, more productive, and more inviting to employers for generations to come.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great State of Texas.
Governor's Initiatives »