Race heats up
In an hour-long State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature Tuesday, Perry stressed repeatedly that Texas has had to step up and step in when the federal government has reacted slowly or punitively to situations like border security, illegal immigration, responses to hurricanes, and environmental regulations.
While Perry had some suggestions in each area, the criticism of Washington was also seen as part of the governor's continuing barrage against his probable rival in next year's Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Without mentioning Hutchison either by name or position, Perry said:
• "Our experience in the aftermath (of three hurricanes in 2008) is a reminder that we cannot rely solely on the federal government and the good intentions of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), but we know we can move a whole lot faster than they can.
"We simply cannot, in good conscience, allow our citizens to shiver in a tent or sweat in the sun as Washington drags its heels on housing and reimbursements."
• Texas has had to put in more than $100 million for additional border security "in light of Washington's ongoing failure to provide the resources necessary to secure our border, or implement a sensible immigration policy."
• Texans "should track the citizenship status of those receiving state-funded services so we can get our hands around the financial impact of Washington's failure to handle the immigration challenge."
• While Texas' prominence in petrochemical production and refining is welcome, it unfortunately "makes us a big target on the radar of an increasingly activist EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
They've got a one-size-fits-all approach which would severely harm our energy sector (and whose) potential to harm our state with punitive actions will only increase in the months and years to come."
Despite that warning, Perry said the state should not "wait for more mandates and punishments for environmental non-attainment," but attack the situation innovatively.
He suggested giving Texans in areas exceeding federal air pollution allowables "a $5,000 incentive toward purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, using the funds Texans have already paid to reduce emissions, while providing a unique way to store the wind energy that is being produced in this state."
Perry said as the United States economy worsens, the tight-fisted efforts he and legislators followed in reacting to a budget shortfall in 2003, and other spending outlays since, have helped insulate Texas from the degree of problems facing most other states.
"All across the country, states are hiking sales taxes, they're slashing education spending, preparing to pay state employees with IOUs, and begging Washington D.C. for a bailout," Perry said.
At the state level, Perry joined other Republicans in wanting to require a picture identifi- cation required to vote; called for refurbishing state funds aimed at attracting new businesses to Texas; endorsed an eminent domain constitutional amendment to protect private property owners from having their land condemned for other than public purposes; and called for more incentive pay for teachers, and working to see that every student graduates with strong command of math, science and English.
Perry, an outspoken opponent of abortions, endorsed legislative efforts to require a woman wanting to end a pregnancy to view an ultrasound of the fetus before doing so.
The governor, who signed off in 2003 on allowing universities to increase tuition rates, joined others in calling for a four-year freeze on a student's college tuition at the rate the student paid their freshman year.
While Perry said Texas should insure its relative prosperity by remaining a low-tax state with minimal regulations, some Democrats didn't agree with his rosy outlook.
"(H)e stressed priorities which scapegoat immigrants, suppress voting rights, harm a woman's right to choose, and give teachers incentives which teachers don't support," Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said in a written statement.
As for Perry's statement that Texas "is still in better shape than most any other state," Van de Putte, who chairs the Texas Senate's Democratic Caucus, said, "I wish the Governor was aware that among the states, Texas is first in the nation in the percentage of uninsured, third in the nation in citizens living below the poverty level, first in the nation in air pollution emissions, and 49th in the nation in average teacher salary as a percentage of annual pay."
The text of the governor's speech can be found online at http://governor.state.tx.us/ news/speech/11852/)