Gov. Abbott delivers first State of the State Address
AUSTIN, Texas - Governor Greg Abbott opened his first State of the State speech with a challenge.
"I'm proud to report that as the sun rises on 2015, the state of Texas is strong and together we're about to make it stronger," said the Governor.
Abbott declared 5 emergency items for lawmakers to fast track. His call for education reform includes new pre-K programs and allowing school districts more local control. He alluded to, but did not mention vouchers, which promises to spur several heated debates in the House and Senate.
"It's time to stop fighting about school finance and start fixing our schools."
Abbott's education reform includes making universities and colleges more affordable. Reducing tuition according to Abbott would include increasing Vo-Tech opportunities.
"The fact is not everybody needs a four-year college degree," he said.
Abbott declared transportation an emergency item and wants to allocate $4 billion in new road construction money.
"It's a sad day in Texas when a guy in a wheelchair can move faster than traffic on our congested roads," the Governor said.
Abbott wants to hire 500 more troopers to beef up border security. Texas National Guard members were sent in June to help and will continue to do so.
"As soon as the DPS has the permanent resources needed to secure our border then we can bring home our dedicated National Guard troops", said Abbott.
The Governor also said its time for new ethics reforms. He is concerned about recent accusations of public corruption, cronyism, and questionable state contracts.
The Governor added a warning to his speech. Abbott promised to veto any budget that does not include cutting the business franchise tax by $2 billion and reducing property taxes by $2.2 billion. He also ordered state agencies to reduce expenditures by 3%.
The speech lasted a little less than an hour. After, FOX 7 spoke to several key lawmakers about what they liked and what threw up red flags.
"The initiatives he has laid out are going to be good for Texas, it's going to be interesting to see how we are going to pay for all of what he suggesting," said State Rep. Paul Workman (D) Austin.
Democrats said steering clear of divisive social issues didn't make Abbott's message any less partisan but the tempered tone was a welcomed change.
"I was very impressed that he started with pre-K, I think more than anything else that was a very bold move," said State Senator Rodney Ellis (D) Houston.
State Rep. Donna Howard (D) Austin voiced concern about how to pay for Abbott's plan.
"I know we are talking about taking some of the diversions from the motor fuels tax to pay for roads which is a great idea, but that means we'll have less money to pay for the other government services and I'm not hearing anything about how we are going to make up that difference.
Abbott noted that sales tax revenues for January reached historic levels, and while that made State Rep. Tony Dale (R) Cedar Park feel better about Abbott's "To-Do List," he pointed out the legislative process can be hard to predict.
"There are going to be differences between the House and Senate and governor we'll see what comes out in the end but I'm confident well get tax relief, we are going to fund education, have money for roads well make big efforts toward securing the border as well."
Governor Abbott also said, if approved by state lawmakers, he would sign Open Carry legislation. But there is no guarantee that bill will make it to his desk.