Gov. Perry: Important Strides made in 2005 Legislative Session Work Still Left to Be Done
By Gov. Rick Perry
In my State of the State Address this January, I asked lawmakers to join me in charting a course for this state that would lead to a new era of possibility. Four months later, Texans can be proud legislators made several investments that will help build a Texas of greater possibility, recognizing there is still work to be done if we are to reach our ultimate destination.
And even though legislators did not act on an education reform and property tax cut proposal, important reforms passed in the 79th Legislature will protect some of our most vulnerable citizens from neglect and abuse, control medical costs for injured workers and their employers, and ensure Texas continues on a course of unlimited opportunity with investments in jobs and technology.
I was particularly pleased to see the legislature adopt the major reforms I laid out for child and adult protective services. These reforms will put hundreds of new caseworkers in the field, increase salaries, lower caseloads by 40 percent and significantly reduce time spent on paperwork. Our protective service workers will now have more time to spend with children and families, and our vulnerable citizens at risk of neglect or abuse will receive the protection they deserve.
We also took an important stand for children and families by passing a new parental consent law that requires minors seeking an abortion to get the approval of a parent or guardian. And this November, voters will have the opportunity to adopt a constitutional amendment that affirms the sacred institution of marriage is between one man and one woman.
We knocked down a major barrier to job growth by fixing our broken workers' compensation system, which saddled employers with some of the highest costs in the nation while doing little to help injured Texans get back to work. The workers' compensation reform bill will give injured workers better care and better benefits, will eventually lead to lower employer costs, and will help contain the cost of medical care for those who depend on the system.
We also cracked down on those who look to get rich by filing frivolous asbestos lawsuits. In recent years, bogus asbestos claims - often filed by healthy individuals - have forced dozens of innocent employers into bankruptcy and put thousands of Americans out of work. But a new law I have already signed will remove the junk lawsuits from the system while protecting rights for the truly injured. Now employers can put their money into the economy instead of trial lawyers' pockets.
Texas also renewed its commitment to job creation by replenishing the Texas Enterprise Fund, a tool that has already been used to bring 28,000 new jobs and $6 billion in capital investments to our state. With its reserves refilled, the Enterprise Fund will help us continue to attract thousands of jobs like the 4,200 recently announced by Washington Mutual.
And with a new Emerging Technology Fund, Texas will be able to improve research at our universities, attract jobs in fast-growing high-tech industries and help start-up companies get their inventions out of the lab and into the hands of consumers sooner.
In addition, legislators agreed with me that tax-funded highways should not be converted to toll roads unless voters say otherwise, which is an important provision contained in a transportation reform bill awaiting my signature.
These are important accomplishments for Texas that will strengthen families, protect the most vulnerable in our society, and create greater opportunity in the private sector.
While I am glad that legislators appropriated $3 billion in additional funding for public education, I also share the disappointment of millions of Texans over the legislature's inability to pass an education and tax reform plan that would have greatly benefited our schoolchildren and substantially lowered property taxes for homeowners.
I believe Texans deserve better than inaction on these issues. That's why I am continuing to work with legislative leaders to reach an agreement on school finance even though the session has ended. Should we forge a consensus, I will give every consideration to calling them back to Austin for a special session so they can finish the job they were elected to do.
If they can't resolve this great challenge, it will make for a long summer when legislators return home to explain to taxpayers and parents why they didn't act to cut property taxes and fund reform in education.
As of yet, the people haven't been heard on school finance reform, only the special interests that worked overtime against education reform and property tax relief at the expense of more than four million school children and millions of homeowners and employers.
But if the people speak out with a loud and clear voice, I believe legislators will overcome their differences and deliver reform. They won't have a choice. And I'm not going to stop talking about these issues until they do.