"The state of our state is strong". So began the State of the State address delivered by Governor Perry Tuesday before a joint session of the Texas legislature. Introduced by Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Perry acknowledged several there listening to his speech. Among them were the Capitol Area Council Boy Scouts of America, celebrating their centennial. Perry credited his own time spent as a Boy Scout with forming his values an character. And Perry credited his life as a Texan - "I owe everything I am to Texas."
Perry stated that there are 140 days to make a difference in the legislative session. Texas is the envy of the nation as the state that saw the highest job creation in 2010. The energy industry, contrary to popular belief, is not the only engine driving the job growth in Texas. Health Care, manufacturing, construction and high tech all play a role.
An interesting tidbit - Allied Van Lines has listed Texas as the top destination of relocators for the last six years.
Strong home values contribute to the economy. Houston, Amarillo, and the Metroplex have consistent months of top real estate value appreciation.
Perry spoke of the need to protect the Rainy Day Fund as well as the rewards reaped from the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund. He used the example of Legal Zoom as a business created in California but moved to Texas creating 600 jobs in the state thanks to a friendly climate towards business.
A predictable regulatory program means businesses know from quarter to quarter what the business environment is in Texas. The EPA demanded air quality improvements and the state exceeded those demands. Also, thanks to tort reform, doctors are returning to under served areas to practice medicine.
Perry touted increased accountability in public schools with a sharper focus on the basics. He wants to expand the virtual school network - especially virtual high school classes that all schools may not offer. He stated that 200,000 more students are enrolled in higher education institutions in 2010 than in 2008. He calls for a four year tuition freeze at the college level - lock in at or below freshman level for four years. He wants a cap at $10,000 per year, including textbook purchases, on higher education costs.
He denies the cries of a budget Armageddon. He believes true reforms can be made by suspending non-crucial agency expenditures for two years through combining like agencies. He used the example of historical agencies and art agencies that have a common cultural thread.
Perry calls for a 'college credit for heroes' style program for Texas veterans. Through the Texas Workforce Commission, veterans can receive credit for skills and experience acquired during service in the military.
Perry touted tort reform as a way of helping to create a positive working environment and wants to extend that to the next step - implementing a loser pays all component to discourage frivolous law suits. Texas is one of the few states with no early dismissal clause to allow greater control over frivolous law suits. Under the headline of law and order, Perry would recommend sex offenders be sentenced to life in prison without parole for repeat offenders.
Towards border security, Perry wants federal attention to the duty that is theirs - protecting our borders against the wave of violence in Mexico. He acknowledged he young widow who lost her husband on Falcon Lake on the Texas/Mexico border to narco terrorism. He pledged to continue to seek justice for her. Perry said this issue is more than just a hot button topic for talk shows.
Perry wants to abolish sanctuary city policies. Joslyn Johnson was acknowledged as widow of a Houston Police Department officer killed by an illegal immigrant. Joslyn is also a HPD member. Perry also spoke of the need to establish criminal penalties for employers who hire illegal workers and increase heat on human trafficking - with mandatory sentencing of 25 years for a first time conviction.
Governor Perry called on the Texas delegation in Washington, D.C. - Republicans and Democrats - to speak louder on behalf of Texas. He calls for action on easing growth in Medicaid costs to states, repeal the Doggett amendment, end federal mandates to help Texas instead of distracting conversations on re-districting. Repeal Obamacare, ease requirements from an activist EPA, and stating one simple message to Washington: "Enough".
Perry said the 28 words in the 10th Amendment should be memorized by all Texans. He said Washington must stop bribing states with their own tax dollars. Affirming state sovereignty, Perry said Texans can run Texas just fine. Texas' greatest resource is the intellect and character of its people.
In closing, Perry called this the "Texas Century" and the charge is to lead.
Following the State of the State address, Perry held a blogger conference call. Asked about his participation in the letter sent to the HHS Secretary signed by 21 governors on unfunded mandates, Perry said Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels called him to get his support for the gesture. For Texas, the unfunded mandates amount to $30 billion in the next 10 years. The governors petitioned Secretary Sibelius about flexibility and block grants for the states.
Answering a question about using the Texas streamlining process in government for the federal government, Perry supports a federal balanced budget, just as Texas has now. Low taxes and a fair regulatory climate, fiscal conservatism, a light touch on business and protecting citizens with public safety measures all contribute to the successes of the state.