Governor Greg Abbott’s State of the State address was less about the state of the state and much more about a wide ranging legislative agenda; one full of new goals and some emergency measures. He talked about education reform for the first twenty minutes of his speech saying that Texas must have a premier education system to sustain and improve Texas’ economic success. He declared two education issues emergencies: (1) expansion of pre-kindergarten programs, and (2) higher education research initiatives. He also encouraged legislators to deal with school finance once and for all to end Texas’ 40 year history of school finance litigation.
But that was just the beginning. Abbott proclaimed: “Our fellow Texans face many challenges: the need for better schools, more roads, for border security, better health care, more jobs. They want more liberty and less government, and they deserve ethics reforms.”
Abbott had proposals on all these issues. He reiterated his plans to provide for $4 billion in new road money, which he also named as an emergency issue, and also encouraged legislators to reduce the mounting Texas debt (about $44 billion).
Border security was also made an emergency issue. He wants 500 more DPS troopers on the boarder and he plans to keep the National Guard on the border until those new troopers are recruited, trained and onsite.
Ethics reform was another emergency item. Ethics reform has been all hat and no cattle in the last session and in several sessions before that. Reform bills have already been filed in the House and Senate and Abbott recognized the authors, but as reported by the Texas Tribune, “The polite but muted applause spoke volumes about the uphill climb Abbott faces in reforming the [ethical] ways of the unrestrained Legislature.”
Abbott reiterated his plans for tax cuts, saying he wanted to reduce property tax and the franchise tax by $2 billion each. He promised he would not sign a budget that wasn’t accompanied by the required tax cuts. He also said the property tax cuts should be made in a manner so they wouldn’t be eroded by appraisal creep; but he didn’t say how that was to be done.
Abbott also insisted that we reduce the size of government. His two proposals on that issue were a constitutional amendment limiting the growth of the state budget to population and inflation growth and a pledge to cut all state department budgets by 3% – not including certain health and human services divisions.
School choice and gun rights were also mentioned. He said he hopes to sign an open carry bill and that parents needed to right to choose the school their children should attend. It was not clear in the speech that he was talking about school vouchers. His examples were where public school systems had implemented open enrollment programs.