Governor Perry's Speech to the 2006 Republican Party of Texas Convention
June 2, 2006
Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center
San Antonio, Texas
Thank you, Anita. Serving as your governor is eclipsed only by the honor of being husband to my first love, and your First Lady, Anita Perry, and father to Griffin and Sydney. Chairman Benkiser, my fellow officeholders and candidates, delegates and alternates, builders of the strongest Republican state in America: I am proud to stand before you as your nominee to be Governor of the great state of Texas for four more years.
This is the ninth time I've had the honor of addressing a state Republican convention since you first asked me to run for Agriculture Commissioner in 1990. Back then, the Democrats didn't take us too seriously. Now they know the most serious mistake you can make is underestimating grassroots Republicans.
The fact that I am here with you again now seeking a second full term as governor is extremely frustrating for our liberal friends. Just look at what the last four years brought them.
We have redrawn their gerrymandered districts, kicked the personal injury trial lawyers out of our doctor's offices, overcome a deficit by cutting spending, invested more in jobs, challenged the status quo in education, defended our border, defended traditional marriage, defended unborn children and delivered the largest tax cut in Texas history. If you were a liberal, you'd be mad too!
But Texans understand that anger is not an agenda for our future. Texas and America were not founded by cranks who said "we can't", but optimists who said "we can."
We have a party built from the grassroots up standing on the shoulders of great leaders like Lincoln and Reagan and offering an optimistic vision for the future.
Today, I cannot help but be reminded of the last time we gathered together on these very grounds when the news spread that America had lost one of our greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan put every future election in perspective when he asked the question: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
That is the central question of this election. With jobs at an all-time high, a top-ranked business climate, college enrollment and student test scores climbing, frivolous lawsuits dropping, teacher pay on the way up, property taxes on the way down, and school finance solved by this Republican majority the answer is clear: Texans are better off today because Republicans have led for the last four years.
If you doubt whether conservatives are making a difference and winning the debate on ideas, consider the fact the other side cannot even admit what they are.
They have to run around calling themselves progressives, or "the new mainstream" or moderates because it sells a lot better than being called a left-leaning liberal.
How many major candidates do you expect will stand up at the other side's convention next week and say they are proud to be a liberal? But as sure as I stand before you today, I am proud to be a conservative.
And I am proud of what we have done, together.
Our families are better off because we have made a difference where it matters most: protecting the lives of our most vulnerable citizens unborn children. We passed a parental notification law that has helped reduce the teen abortion rate by 26 percent. Because life and death decisions should not be made by children I felt compelled to sign legislation requiring parental consent for a minor to get an abortion.
And what was the response of the critics? Did they express one word of concern for life? Of course not . they were more concerned that I signed that law in a religious school gymnasium. Seldom does their bias against pro-life people of faith get summed up so succinctly by one event.
We also protected family by standing up for the principle that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. And by putting it in the Constitution with a 76 percent mandate, you put it out of the reach of judicial activists.
If anyone doubts whether a judiciary run amok affects our families, consider the Kelo decision saying private property can be condemned by government to benefit private profit-making pursuits. I really disagree. The family homestead should not be taken away to build one more strip mall. That's why I was proud to sign legislation preventing the use of eminent domain for private economic development projects.
Our schools are better off too because of Republican leadership. We've raised standards, strengthened accountability and soon, 65 percent of your tax dollars will go directly to the classroom, not the bureaucracy.
Our economy is better off because we have invested in jobs. Since 2003, Texas has gained 580,000 net new jobs. More Texans than ever are earning their own paycheck, relying on themselves instead of government.
And taxpayers are better off because the Republican leaders you sent to Austin did something that few in this country thought possible: when Texas faced a record $10 billion shortfall in 2003, we balanced our budget without raising taxes, and cut state spending for the first time since World War II.
Our record of conservative leadership is one that Texans can be proud of. And no accomplishment will have a more significant impact than school finance reform.
Republicans promised a historic property tax cut, new taxpayer protections, fairness for employers and better pay for teachers and we delivered. And because we stood by our principles, we did it while lowering the net tax burden on Texans by nearly $7 billion.
Over the next three years, homeowners and businesses will save $15.7 billion on school property taxes enough to lower rates by 33 percent. Texans can count on sustained relief in the future because they will have more authority to stop local tax increases and the most significant protections against rising appraisals ever adopted in Texas.
We lowered the amount local school boards can raise your tax rate. If they want more of your money, they have to ask your permission at the ballot box. And if appraisal creep results in school districts getting more money than what's been authorized they must give it back unless voters say otherwise.
Our schools will improve because we increased math and science instruction... raised teacher pay by $2,000 and created the largest merit pay program in America because excellence should not be rewarded the same as mediocrity.
Performance pay for teachers is the most systemic change to education in decades. Teachers who go above the call who make an impact on a child that will be felt for the rest of their lives can make up to $10,000 more for their dedication. Opponents have said bringing free market principles to the classroom will be divisive. For once I actually agree with the critics. It will divide the union bosses from the teachers they used to represent. Because while the unions hate competition, thousands of teachers will benefit from it.
Let me say something about the Republican philosophy on taxes: our cause is not to dismantle government, but to make it work at a price taxpayers can afford. We have never argued that all taxes should be abolished but they should be low, they should be fair, and conducive to growth.
Some have said we shouldn't have created a reformed business tax at a low rate because future politicians may raise that rate. But my friends, that's not an argument against reforming taxes it's an argument against electing a Democrat Majority!
Ronald Reagan didn't argue for abolishing the personal income tax, he argued for cutting the rate. He knew the war against communism could not be fought on private donations.
My argument is this: if you are going to tax certain activity in Texas, do it fairly and broadly so more pay a share, and many pay less. That's what we have done. We got rid of corporate loopholes that allowed multi-billion dollar corporations to pay less than small businesses. We replaced the franchise tax with a low-rate business tax that costs employers less every time they create a job, invest in health insurance or fund worker pensions. We exempted our smallest businesses that earn less than $300,000 a year, as well as all sole proprietors and partnerships owned by natural persons. And we cut school property taxes for employers by 33 percent meaning a great many will enjoy a lower net tax burden than what they pay today.
One business activity, however, we refused to exempt: employers will not be able to deduct payroll expenditures for illegal workers.
Some critics now say we cut property taxes too much because government will have less money to spend. But to me, the best time to stop wasteful spending is before government gets your money.
I am proud that, as governor, I have vetoed $2.5 billion in proposed spending nearly 6 times as much as the last four governors combined. But I could have done even more if legislators didn't play a shell game where wasteful spending gets lumped in with wise spending.
For instance, entire university budgets are now captured in one line-item leaving a governor the choice of vetoing an entire university to get at wasteful spending. Over time this practice has worsened, to the point of jeopardizing a governor's constitutional authority. But beyond that, there is a simple principle at work that legislators should adhere to: the taxpayers who pay the bill should be able to look at every item on the receipt! Tell legislators to open the books and make every expenditure withstand the light of day!
Today, I believe the greatest threat to our future is a porous and unsecured border.
Let me put this in clear terms: the debate on immigration reform is meaningless until the federal government secures our southern border.
There is no such thing as homeland security without border security. Our 1,200 mile border with Mexico is viewed as a prime point of entry by terrorist organizations, criminal gangs and drug traffickers. We know this based on intelligence and based on apprehensions. Yet, despite this growing threat, the Department of Homeland Security has decided to cut funding for Texas by 31 percent. And at the same time, our federal government continues to release individuals who enter this country who are not of Mexican descent, asking them to appear at a deportation hearing several weeks later. They might as well play the Southwest Airlines jingle when they are released, because "ding" they are now free to move about the country.
That is why Texas is not waiting on Washington to act. Six months before the president announced National Guard soldiers would help secure the border, Texas had already made that decision.
We are leveraging the National Guard's unique capabilities to support local law enforcement. With millions of dollars from my office, we have substantially increased investigators and patrols along the border. We have created a new Border Security Operations Center to coordinate intelligence and assets in an 80,000 square mile region.
I authorized the use of state trooper strike teams, covert surveillance units, canine tracking teams, DPS helicopters, and the Texas Civil Air Patrol to help border sheriffs and police stop illegal activity. And I will ask the legislature to dedicate $100 million to fund these border security initiatives until the federal government starts enforcing our sovereign border with Mexico.
In addition with the voluntary participation of private landowners we will begin posting surveillance cameras at criminal hotspots and along common routes used to illegally enter this country. Landowners will be able to monitor and defend their property from those who might endanger their families. We will make the video feed available to state, local and federal law enforcement agencies so that they can respond swiftly and appropriately as needed. And we will post this video on the Internet, in real time, so that concerned Americans can help protect our nation through online neighborhood watch programs.
As a nation of immigrants, we welcome those who contribute to our society, pay taxes and arrive here lawfully. Allowing those who break the rules to get legal status ahead of those who follow them is wrong, and is why I oppose amnesty.
In addition for the first time in our history Texas will start requiring every Medicaid applicant to verify that they are in the country legally in order to receive benefits.
The tremendous progress of the past four years was not based on destiny, but a decision a decision the people of Texas made when they chose limited government and unlimited opportunity. Some stand lurking in the shadows, ready to unravel our record of success in order to act on a recipe for failure.
They place their faith in government at the exclusion of all else. They tip their hat to fiscal restraint while making spending promises that add up to the single largest government expansion in state history. And they advocate the elimination of educational accountability because they believe it is more important that a child feel good about a diploma than be able to read it.
So when they look at our progress, they get angry and they never miss an opportunity to complain and criticize.
We all know the kind. They're on the playgrounds of every grade school in America pouting on the sidelines while the players take the field.
But the race is not to the chronic complainer or the shrillest critic it is to the principled leader.
Texans aren't looking for an act they are looking for action. And it is hard to take action when you don't know what you believe. Anyone who is willing to change positions on abortion, school choice and their own pay raise cannot be trusted with your future.
My principal opponent has been specific about only one aspect of his school finance plan: that despite a record $8.2 billion surplus, he believes we must raise taxes. I appreciate his Walter Mondale-like honesty I just think he is wrong.
Failing to offer ideas is not leadership nor is asking the taxpayers to bail you out just because you can't say no to a single big spending special interest group.
Leadership is about offering specific proposals even when you face criticism fighting for what you believe in and delivering on your promises.
My friends, I have weathered my share of criticism from elitists, liberals and opportunists. But more importantly, I have always fought for what I believe in and delivered on my promises.
And the results are adding up: the largest school property tax cut in state history sweeping lawsuit reforms a renewed focus on classroom excellence and the passage of new laws that protect life.
My fellow Texans, there will only be one conservative leader on the ballot this November only one candidate who stands firm regardless of popularity's shifting winds. Others may try to campaign to the right. I will always govern based on what I believe is right.
And when we are successful, you can be confident of this: I will build consensus when I can, but if standing firm on conservative principles means there's going to be a fight, I say bring it on!
That's why you elected me, and that's why we will win again this November! Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the great state of Texas.