Gov. Perry Addresses the Texas Association of Realtors
Calls for constitutional amendment on eminent domain
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Thank you, Brooke [Hunt, Chairman of the Board of TAR] for that introduction, and thank you to all the members of the Texas Association of Realtors for your endurance in these tough economic times.
I can imagine it's been a pretty wild ride for all of you who have kept tabs on a national mortgage crisis that expanded into a glut of foreclosures and downward pressure on home values.
Fortunately, Texas has been less susceptible to those forces, with lower default rates, and homes that are holding their values much better than the national average.
There is no question that the effects of the global economic crisis are being felt in Texas more every day. That's why I held roundtable discussions with business leaders like Brooke [Hunt] and Benny [McMahan] over the past few months.
I wanted to know what's going on out there and I'm still listening. That's why I'm here today, to meet the people who are on the front lines, dealing with home buyers and sellers, and riding the ups and downs of that market every day.
You're the ones who have pursued an education, hung out your shingle, and invested your time in building a book of business. You're the ones who sink or swim based on your knowledge, relationships and plain old hard work.
There are some who believe that the government's job is to rescue every person who ever got in over their heads, but I tend to believe in a different role for government.
I'm a firm believer that the role of government is to provide the most level playing field possible, by keeping taxes low, government spending down, our legal system fair, and our regulations as predictable as possible
I believe government should invest in key areas where providing an incentive can bring jobs to Texas. That's why we created the Texas Enterprise Fund which we use to close deals all across the state and generate jobs for Texans.
I hope that your legislators will fully fund the Texas Enterprise Fund, our Film Incentives package and the Emerging Technology Fund during this legislative session so we can keep investing wisely.
Our wise investments and bias for freeing up our entrepreneurs has worked pretty well so far. As you've heard me say, Texas leads the nation in Fortune 500 companies, exports and job creation.
For example, roughly 80% of the jobs created in the United States from December '07 to December '08 were in Texas. That represents about 153,600 more Texans working to pay their bills and feed their families.
So our state has done well, but things are tightening up, as the Texas economy shows symptoms of the troubles affecting the rest of the world.
Fortunately, our unemployment rate is still a full point lower than the national average, but those numbers still represent friends, family and neighbors who are deeply worried about how they're going to feed their families.
In the months to come, I believe that our economy, our workforce and our affordable quality of life will continue to draw jobs, capital investment and great ideas to Texas.
For example, in just the past few months, we have seen companies survey their nationwide operations, assess the business climates at their diverse locations, then choose Texas as the best place to move jobs.
Two weeks ago, USAA announced 1,000 jobs coming to San Antonio. I will not be surprised if more companies follow their lead, but we can do more to make sure that happens.We can do more to make Texas the best option for companies that employ Texans or would like to.
We need to make sure our state's infrastructure is strong enough to accommodate the 1,000 or so new Texans our state gains every day. I know you do your part to find homes for the new arrivals, but our emphasis is on the roads, power transmission and water they'll need.
Building out that infrastructure will go more smoothly if the Legislature will clarify and codify our state's position on eminent domain once and for all. In 2005, Senate Bill 7, made it clear Texans won't tolerate having their land taken and given to another private party.
In 2007, I wanted more protection for property owners, but the bill that reached my desk had been so heavily modified from its original form that it would have done more harm than good.
Here in 2009, I hope we can secure a constitutional amendment that clearly codifies these essential protections for generations to come. I also hope we can protect landowners from other abuses of eminent domain by passing laws that nail down key issues.
For example, government shouldn't use eminent domain to take someone's land without making an honest effort to buy it first. It's wrong for any government to make a lowball offer, then respond to an owner's righteous refusal by taking the land.
Landowners should also be allowed to buy back land when it isn't used for the project it was taken for, and buy it for the price the government paid for it, not its value on today's market. That increase in value belongs to the landowner, not the government, and the landowner shouldn't have to pay extra to get it back.
As we work to keep our economy rolling, we also need to update regulations that don't reflect the impact of new technology, don't acknowledge changing market conditions, or, worst of all, choke off jobs.
We also need to keep our taxes down and hold the line on the growth of government spending. This is clearly not the approach the federal government is taking, but Texas and Washington don't really see eye-to-eye, when it comes to government's role.
I know a lot of folks would like us to accept every last penny of the stimulus dollars they're printing in Washington, but we need to be careful.
Accepting every single dollar and agreeing to the additional spending that goes with them would be a lot like you selling a house to someone whose income could disappear in two years.
Those dollars sound nice now, but could find ourselves dealing with a lot of disappointed people when those stimulus dollars dry up. That's why I am opposed to the portions of the stimulus plan that would place a massive debt burden on future generations, and obligate Texas to recurring expenditures that we cannot afford.
If Washington plans to send our taxpayers' share for one-time expenditures like infrastructure improvements, I'm all for it. However, we need the freedom to pick and choose our obligations.
Our fiscally conservative approach has gotten us this far and I believe we should press on in that direction. That approach got us out of a $10 billion budget shortfall in 2003 when Texas was one of several states in a tough financial situation.
The states that raised taxes and took on massive debt back then are in worse shape today and can't wait for Washington to bail them out.
I am committed to working with our legislators to keep Texas living within its means, continuing our adherence to proven fiscal principles, and making tough choices, even in tough times.
It may not be the most popular choice, but it is the wisest one, that will keep Texas strong in the months and years to come.
Thank you all for your passion, your principled leadership of your companies and your engagement in these vital issues.
I pray God will bless your efforts with continued success, and bless our state with continued prosperity.