Posted: Jan 10, 2013 3:35 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2013 3:35 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Gov. Rick Perry insisted Thursday that many of the nation's 49 other governors would love to be able to boast that their states have experienced the employment and economic success that Texas has including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Addressing a conservative policy orientation, Perry again celebrated his state's growing economy and budget forecasts that the state Legislature will have billions more to work with as lawmakers head back to work this week. He also repeated calls for legislators to cut taxes, and said they should maintain the kind of austere state spending imposed while Texas was still feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
Perry said the state's pro-business and limited regulatory environment has Texas' economy humming, while some other parts of the country struggle.
"I'm sure that I couldn't get all 49 other governors to admit that they would want to be Texans," he told a sympathetic crowd. Perry then referenced Cuomo's support for gun control and said, "I'm thinking that Governor Cuomo would not admit that he'd want to be a Texan."
"But if he were truthful," Perry added, "you could say that the economic climate that has allowed the state to grow and create jobs, he'd dearly love to be able to stand up and say 'we did this in New York.' But he can't."
New York's unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in November from 8.3 percent a month earlier, while Texas' fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.2 percent over the same period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Perry called on the new state Legislature "to find ways to improve our state's infrastructure. The water, energy, surface transportation.
Republicans have majorities in both the state House and Senate, and dozens of conservative lawmakers have registered to be a part of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's three-day conference.
WATER WOES: A Republican lawmaker is proposing Texas spend $2 billion to implement a sweeping plan to ensure the drought-prone state has enough water for its rapidly expanding population.
Two bills filed Thursday by state Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederaland would double the amount of money Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst proposed spending on water projects.
Ritter's plan uses $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to bolster infrastructure, including new dams and reservoirs, as outlined in the State Water Plan. Ritter chairs the House Natural Resources Committee.
House Speaker Joe Straus says water will be a priority this legislative session.
CANCER FUND: A nonprofit foundation tied to Texas' beleaguered $3 billion cancer-fighting agency has disclosed a list of donors that reveals six-figure contributions from private drug companies.
The CPRIT Foundation on Thursday released the list of more than 250 donors. The list had been sought by lawmakers and reports in wake of a criminal investigation launched into the state-run Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
The agency has been in turmoil since revealing that a Dallas-based company received $11 million in taxpayer funds despite never having its application reviewed or scrutinized. Criminal prosecutors have launched an investigation into CPRIT and all of the agency's top leadership has resigned.
A main purpose of the CPRIT Foundation was to supplement the salaries of agency executives
PAYING FOR SCHOOLS: A bill filed in the Texas House would restore all of the $5.4 billion cut from the state's public schools in 2011.
Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, says Texas' rosier economic picture means there's now funding to undo the cuts made during weaker economic times.
More than 600 school districts have sued the state over the cuts. If the courts side with them, it will be up to the Legislature to remake Texas' funding system. But no ruling should come until after the Legislature adjourns for the year.
Burnam said Thursday the cuts cost some school districts up to nearly $1,200 per pupil. Also, more than 10,000 teaching positions were eliminated, and class sizes increased in nearly 7,000 elementary classrooms.
NIPPING THE DOUBLE-DIP: State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, wants to ban state elected officials from "double-dipping," or officially retiring to collect their pensions while still drawing a salary.
Gov. Rick Perry caused a stir in 2011 when financial disclosures he filed while running for president revealed he was collecting his $133,000 state salary and a $92,000 pension simultaneously.
The 62-year-old Perry counted his five years in the Air Force and more than 20 years in public service in Texas.
Other state officials, including lawmakers, can also do so. But many remain anonymous since state law doesn't require them to divulge it.
Turner's bill would ban double-dipping by future state officials. It would not outlaw the practice for those already engaging in it.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We wish we could turn back the hands of time for you, but sadly we cannot." Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, addressing a group of men who served time in a prison for crimes they did not commit and were honored in the House on Thursday.