Tax relief, infrastructure and education: Priorities to keep Texas strong
Austin, TX (KYTX) -- Gov. Rick Perry delivered his State of the State address to the 83rd Texas Legislature, highlighting our state's strong economic outlook, and outlining his priorities to keep Texas on an upward trajectory. He called on the Legislature to provide at least $1.8 billion in tax relief, invest in the state's water and transportation infrastructure and improve access and choice in both public and higher education, including providing South Texas access to the Permanent University Fund. This is Gov. Perry's seventh State of the State address.
"The state of our state is stronger than ever. We remain the nation's prime destination for employers and job-seekers alike, and across the state - in classrooms, on assembly lines, in laboratories, on farms and in office buildings - hard working Texans are today turning their dreams into realities," Gov. Perry said. "Big and small, dreams do become reality in Texas."
The governor called on the Legislature to provide at least $1.8 billion in tax relief and pass a constitutional amendment to allow the state to give money directly back to taxpayers. He welcomed feedback from Texans on the best methods of tax relief, inviting them to share their ideas on the governor's website, gov.Texas.gov.
The governor also noted that our strong economic growth and expanding population have increased demand on the fundamental building blocks of our communities. To address these needs, he urged lawmakers to use $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in water and transportation infrastructure programs. Additionally, he called on the Legislature to once and for all end diversions from the State Highway Fund, freeing up an additional $1.3 billion of ongoing biennial funding available for transportation.
"What I am proposing will support critical water and transportation systems across our state, addresses our needs both short- and long-term, and ensures both water and traffic will continue to flow in Texas for generations to come," the governor said.
Recognizing that not every child learns for the same purpose or thrives in the same settings and schools, the governor called for more choice in both public and higher education. This includes the creation of more public charter schools, which are already in high demand across the state and offer a tuition-free alternative to a student's neighborhood school, and the creation of scholarship programs to give students a choice in their education, especially for those locked into low-performing schools. The governor also emphasized the need to give students more flexibility in the courses they take in high school to prepare them for whatever their goals may be, without sacrificing rigorous academic standards.
Also highlighting the state's higher education needs, particularly in the dynamic and growing South Texas region, the governor called on lawmakers to provide the region access to the Permanent University Fund. This paired with efforts to make higher education more accessible and affordable to all Texans - such as providing more $10,000 degree options, a four-year tuition freeze and tying a minimum of ten percent of a school's state funding to the number of students it graduates - all represent an investment in our state's skilled workforce and our future.
"Texas is not merely strong, but exceptional. We are a testament to the power of freedom, to the entrepreneurial spirit unleashed from government interference," said Gov. Perry in closing. "We believe these ideals are sturdy enough and strong enough to advance any and all Texans regardless of race, color or creed. We embrace a 'can do culture' for every citizen willing to work hard and pursue a dream. Those ideals propel us forward as we stand as a national example that hard work can breed success regardless of one's station in life, that freedom is the best antidote to poverty, and that each individual deserves to inherit a state of equality and opportunity."
The governor also emphasized the principles of the Texas Budget Compact, such as truing up the budget and moving away from budget gimmicks; implementing a stronger constitutional limit on spending that ensures it does not grow more than the combined rate of inflation and population growth; scrubbing the budget for any waste and redundancies; ending the practice of using dedicated funds and specific fees for anything other than the purpose for which they were intended; and maintaining a strong Rainy Day Fund that includes not tapping the fund to meet ongoing expenses.