Twelve years after first becoming governor and one year after a failed bid for president, Rick Perry delivered a State of the State speech Tuesday that was long on large-scale spending proposals and short on red meat for his conservative base.
"Our bank balance is healthy. Our economy is growing. Our future is limitless," Perry told a joint session of the Legislature from the floor of the Texas House.
Over 35 minutes, Perry laid out an ambitious agenda for the remaining four months of the legislative session. He avoided hot-topic issues like abortion, immigration and gun control and focused instead on infrastructure, budget reform and education.
After a presidential campaign in which he touted the notion of getting the government out of the way of families and businesses, Perry spent a large portion of Tuesday's speech touting the ability of government programs and spending to transform its people's lives for the better. He spoke about the power of better roads and a reliable water supply in boosting economic development. He raved about how recent public expenditures have transformed South Texas. He criticized the federal government only briefly, when he vowed to not expand Medicaid under federal health reform.
"From these great chambers to the governor's office, to local offices in small towns across our state, we are all privileged to do our part to make a better Texas for all," Perry said.
Perry called for budget writers to tap more than $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for onetime infrastructure projects. Lawmakers have recently proposed tapping as much as $2 billion from the fund for water projects and an additional amount for road projects. The fund is projected to have $11.8 billion by the end of the next biennium.
Additionally, on transportation, Perry proposed ending $1.3 billion in diversions of the state's highway fund away from road construction and maintenance, much of which currently goes to fund the Department of Public Safety.
"It's the decisions made here, in this chamber, in this building, that will determine what Texas will look like 50 years from now," Perry said solemnly near the end of his address.
The governor also proposed $1.8 billion in tax relief but said he wanted a discussion on what form that relief would take, asking Texans to have their say on a new page on his website. Lawmakers have recently discussed providing relief from either the property tax or the state's business tax. Perry urged lawmakers to make the franchise tax exemption for small businesses permanent.
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