Gov. Rick Perry Speaks on Truckers' Day
Thank you, Bill (Webb, president). It’s good to be here this morning with the men and women who keep the wheels of commerce moving, those of you who drive the big rigs on the highways and byways of Texas, our hardworking truckers. Before I go any further, let me just thank the Texas Motor Transportation Association again for throwing the best inaugural party of the year in Washington a few months back. I had such a good time with ZZ Top, Gary P. Nunn and Clay Walker that I hope we do it again. Instead of everybody talking about Black Tie and Boots as the premiere party, they will be taking about the “Big Rig Texas Trucker” Bash!
I am always proud to stand with Texas truckers because I understand the great sacrifices you make, the long hours on the road, the time away from friends and loved ones, all to provide for your families and keep the engine of progress humming for the people of this state. In fact, when it came time to fill the labor slot at the Texas Workforce Commission, I turned to a retired trucker and lifetime teamster by the name of Ronnie Congleton to help look out for the workers of Texas. Truckers are vital to our prosperity. If you think about it, most of those goods that we ship through this hemisphere would never make it unless they were carried at some point on one of your 18-wheelers. And you can take great pride in the fact that Texas has now been ranked the number one business climate in American, a recognition you helped make possible.
You couldn’t have picked a better time to meet with your elected leaders because this legislative session is tremendously important for the trucking industry, our entire economy and every person who is proud to call Texas home. We have some big challenges before us, but the West Texas optimist in me says that we can get the job done if we come together and work in the best interests of our people over the next two months. No issue impacts our future more than education. There are a few key principles that guide me when it comes to education reform. First and foremost, this debate is not only about how much we spend, it’s about how we spend it. The forces of the status quo want billions of new dollars poured into the status quo without any guarantee that our children will learn more. I say we can do better. We can reform education by making excellence the goal of every school. We can change the focus from minimum standards by emphasizing maximum achievement. And we can ensure we get more education for our money, not just more money for education.
Second, I believe that Texans deserve a real property tax cut that stands the test of time. You can’t give Texans real property tax relief without giving them real appraisal relief. It’s not a tax cut if your rate goes down but your total bill goes up. I join this organization in calling for an end to taxation by valuation and a cap on appraisal increases. And to make sure a tax cut stays a tax cut, we should also dedicate a portion of future budget surpluses to local property tax relief. Third, as we look for funding sources to offset a significant reduction in property taxes, we must protect the engine of growth in Texas, job creation. Jobs are the best long-term source of revenue for priorities like education, healthcare and transportation. And we have come too far in building the best business climate in America to retreat on the principles that got us here. Think about what we’ve accomplished in the past few years: 162,000 net new jobs since September of 2003, more job creation announcements than any other state in 2004, and a state budget that is back in black just two years after facing a record $10 billion shortfall. My friends, these things did not happen by accident. They happened because we have pursued a path of fiscal responsibility, kept taxes low, reined in lawsuit abuse, and made unprecedented investments in job creation.
Today Texas is growing its way to prosperity. Our challenge for the future is to keep the momentum going. An important component of long-term economic health is a world-class transportation system that moves people and goods safely and efficiently. I don’t have to tell a group of truckers that our current system of transportation too often fails on both of those fronts. Gridlock and congestion on our highways puts the brakes on economic growth, costs commuters time and businesses money, and especially for those who earn their living on the road, makes their workplace a lot more dangerous. That’s why we are building the Trans Texas Corridor.
Earlier this month, Texas signed an agreement with a private consortium to build the first six segments of the Trans Texas Corridor stretching from Oklahoma to San Antonio, without any up-front cost to taxpayers for construction. For truckers traveling I-35, that will mean separate lanes with less passenger vehicle traffic, fewer slow-downs through big cities, and speed limits as high as 85 miles per hour outside of crowded areas. I like to think of big issues in terms of choices. When it comes to transportation, our choices are few and simple. One, we can do nothing different, and just crowd 20 million more Texans onto the same freeway system we all use today over the next couple of decades. Second, we can hope the federal government gives us all the money we need, but heck, they’re not even giving us back ninety cents on the dollar. Or third, we could raise the gas tax a dollar, which is what it would take to meet our maintenance and new construction needs. To me, none of those three options will work. Instead, there is a fourth way: allow the markets to finance toll roads that get built faster and cheaper, that only charge tolls to those who choose to use them, and that continue to give truckers and commuters alike all the free options they have today. While we will continue to expand and improve our current system, we must also recognize the fact that we can’t expand existing corridors fast enough or wide enough to keep up with growth and traffic. In Austin, if you expand I-35 downtown, you are either going to have to tear down the U.T. baseball stadium, or the U.T. basketball arena. A few Aggie engineers at the department of transportation are for tearing down both, but there has to be a better way. And that way is the Trans Texas Corridor.
Let me close by saying how much I appreciate all you do to keep the Texas economy moving, and I appreciate you taking the time to get involved in the legislative process. In the remaining months of this legislative session and beyond, I look forward to working with all of you to build a better Texas.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Property Tax Relief and Appraisal Reform »