AUSTIN (CBS 11 NEWS) – During the opening day of the 83rd legislative session, Texas Governor Rick Perry urged state lawmakers to stick with conservative budget principles — even though the state’s economy is growing again, and that the state has as much as an additional $23 billion available to spend from two years ago.
Mr. Perry said, “We must control the appetite for more spending.”
The Governor asked legislators to consider giving state taxpayers a break, but wouldn’t specify how. “It’s also time to take a look at tax relief. We need to ensure consumers and employers have more cash on hand to pay their bills and hire more people and invest in new efforts.”
STATE LEGISLATURE: GOVERNOR PERRY ASKS FOR TAX BREAKS
Perry’s address comes amid speculation he will run for re-election next year, and possibly for President again in 2016 after he dropped out of the race for The White House last year.
Besides the budget, Mr. Perry promoted the ideas of drug testing those who receive welfare and unemployment assistance and further protecting unborn children, “By expanding the ban on abortion to any baby that can feel the pain of that procedure,” Perry said.
Democrats like state representative Rafael Anchia of Dallas say the state needs to focus on its core needs: education, water, and transportation. “What I worry about is some of our state leaders have political ambitions, we’re going to have a bunch of side shows that will be sucking up the oxygen from the legislative session.”
But the Governor mostly stayed focused on the state budget.
He will be having a weekly breakfast meeting with LT. Governor David Dewhurst and newly re-elected House Speaker Joe Straus.
Perhaps one the most controversial issues this session will be whether to restore the $5.4 billion in cuts made to public schools two years ago.
Now that the state’s economy has improved, school districts and unions such as the American Federation of Teachers of Texas want the money put back into the classroom.
Louis Malfaro, the secretary-treasurer of Texas AFT says, “There is still ample money to restore cuts to public schools, to restore cuts that were made to higher education, and to fund growth. So the money is there, the political will is what’s at question right now.”
During his speech to state lawmakers Tuesday, Governor Perry didn’t mention the education cuts made two years ago.
But he warned legislators about the additional money the state has available to spend.
Perry said, “There are interests all over the state who view Monday’s revenue estimates as the equivalent as ringing the dinner bell. They all want more for their causes. They all figure we have manna falling from heaven.”
EDUCATION FUNDING HOT TOPIC FOR NEW TEXAS LEGISLATIVE SESSION:
The Governor and other Republican leaders point to a lawsuit over school funding tied up in courts by school districts against the state.
But Democratic Representative Rafael Anchia of Dallas says the state needs to restore the cuts.
Anchia said, “I think the Republican leadership has answering to do. They need to answer to parents, public schools students, higher education students.”
LT Governor Dewhurst isn’t enthusiastic about restoring the cuts made to public schools two years ago.
But he said state lawmakers should set aside extra money just in case the school districts win their lawsuit against the state.
Lawmakers are also set to debate over how to keep students safe on school campuses after last month’s massacre at the Connecticut elementary school.
Governor Rick Perry has indicated he supports allowing teachers and administrators carry concealed handguns on school campuses.
But Democratic State Representative Rafael Anchia says not so fast.
“When you talk about having regular citizens with guns around kids, I think that gives most Texas parents a lot of heartburn, and we need to look very closely at how we do things like that.”
Anchia and some area school districts favor adding armed guards at elementary schools.
Many middle and high schools already have a police officer on campus.
STATE LAWMAKERS CONSIDER ARMING MORE TEXAS TEACHERS:
The Lt. Governor says state law already allows school districts to have teachers and other employees carry concealed handguns, if approved.
But Mr. Dewhurst says he doesn’t think that’s good enough.
He wants to increase training before school employees could be armed. “What I’m considering in talking with some of our Senators, the state paying for real and robust training, not just two hours on the range, but robust training.”
Dewhurst though says his plan is still preliminary.
Also Check Out: