Gov. Rick Perry touted Texas as “stronger than ever” in his State of State Address and called on legislators to begin using the state’s largely untouched Rainy Day Fund as a way to start making much-needed improvements to state infrastructure.
In his address yesterday, Perry said the decisions made in the 2011 legislative session continue to boost Texas into economic prosperity, with more than half a million private sector jobs created in the last two years. He spoke of creating tax relief for Texans and of making higher education more affordable for the entire state.
“We led the nation out of recession and into recovery, and remain the nation’s prime destination for employers and job seekers alike,” Perry said in his address. “In classrooms, on assembly lines, in laboratories, on farms and in office buildings, hard-working Texans are today turning their dreams into realities.”
Perry said he supported using $3.7 million of the Economic Stabilization Fund, or Rainy Day Fund, for a one-time investment in Texas infrastructure issues such as water and transportation. The fund will hold about $12 billion in 2014.
“The Rainy Day Fund was created to ensure we had a sufficient amount in reserve in case of disaster, and to ensure Texas maintains its strong credit rating,” Perry said. “While we cannot — and will not — raid the fund to meet ongoing expenses, we also shouldn’t accumulate billions more than necessary.”
Perry said he supported a bill to give universities in South Texas access to the state’s Permanent University Fund, which is a public endowment that supports select universities in the University of Texas System and Texas A&M University System.
“Today, the students of South Texas are able to stay closer to home to earn their college degrees,” Perry said. “This area of the state is critical to our state’s future, and our investment in the children of South Texas will be returned a thousandfold.”
A protester stood up and interrupted Perry’s speech to express concern for the lack of available health care in Texas and was immediately escorted out of the building. Perry decided last year not to expand the Medicaid program for the state and said again in his Tuesday address that the state does not plan to set up an exchange program for health insurance.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said Perry’s decision not to expand Medicaid is neither socially nor economically responsible.
“What it would do for the economic development of our state is pretty significant, if not phenomenal,” Watson said. “But yet, almost because of disliking who won in an election, we’re not going to focus on something that will make citizens of this state healthier and will make the economy healthier.”
Perry said he agreed with President Barack Obama’s statement in his second inaugural address about pulling forward as a united force, regardless of individual differences, and said he hopes to implement the same mindset in the state of Texas moving forward.
“I’m proud that Texas is a place where anyone can make a difference, regardless of where you’re from or how you might spell your last name,” Perry said. “We are a diverse tapestry of cultures, faiths and bloodlines, but we are bound by a common spirit and a common lineage that’s remarkable for a state so big.”