Thank you, Representative [Patricia] Harless, Representative [Debbie] Riddle. It is an honor to be introduced by a pair of leaders like you.
It is great to be here in Houston, a city that gets more attractive every year, whether that's to business owners, families or reporters for major business magazines.
In 2009, Forbes labeled Houston the Best City to Get Ahead and Site Selection Magazine named your fair city the number one metropolitan area based on number of business location announcements.
Houston's success is not only reflective of the strength we're sustaining in the midst of tough economic times it is also a key contributor.
That strength flows primarily from the hard work of Texans like you and perpetuated by fiscally disciplined leadership at the state level.
Although Texas leads the nation in so many positive categories, from Fortune 500 companies to job creation we owe it to our citizens to strive for more.
We need to stay ahead of our country's tough economic situation by adhering to our proven fiscal disciplines.
That is why LTGOV Dewhurst, Speaker Straus and I recently asked state agencies to submit plans for a 5% budget cut.
We run a lean operation in Texas, so those cuts won't be easy, but we've taken this tack before and it works.
We faced similar choices in 2003 when we were confronted with a $10 billion budget shortfall.
Some folks might have been tempted to jack up taxes but we chose spending cuts instead challenging government to work smarter.
That same kind of discipline allowed us to conclude last year's legislative session with a balanced budget a tax cut for 40,000 small businesses and billions set aside for a rainy day.
Whether the calendar says 2003 or 2010, people still want a few basic things from government, starting with freedom.
They want to live their lives free of oppression to make a dollar and keep as much of it as possible and have a safe place to live.
If the Obama administration keeps up the pace of its first year we're going to lose count of their major misguided efforts like the healthcare debacle the job-killing energy policies and education "reform" that attempts to entice states into surrendering their autonomy for as little as $75 per student.
Just recently, Texas made a little news when we declined to participate in the "Race to the Top" program because our children deserve better.
They deserve an education that reflects the unique situation in Texas and prepares them to compete in the global marketplace so that is what we have created for them.
Texas is sending a message that we will not blindly follow directives simply because they emanate from Washington, DC.
Instead, we have principled leaders from all across the state who work very hard on solutions that are best for Texas that enable us to compete for jobs, investment, and business.
Here in Texas, we believe that government's job is to stick to the basics, sustain a competitive culture then get out of the way.
We've done that by sticking to four simple rules.
First, we don't spend all the money, so we have a balanced budget and billions of dollars set aside for a rainy day.
Second, we have established a predictable regulatory climate, so employers know what to expect when they're risking their capital.
Third, we reformed our legal system to cut down on over-suing which has improved access to healthcare all across our state.
Fourth, we have created an accountable school system that is better preparing our children to compete in the workforce.
Combined with a whole lot of effort by hardworking Texans like you, those priorities have kept Texas on the right track to our current leadership position.
We also invest in job creation with the Texas Enterprise Fund which played a key role in 600 new jobs announced for San Antonio just this week and the 100 new jobs that Cardiovascular Systems is bringing to Pearland.
Houston has also benefited from investments made by our Emerging Technology Fund which is working with organizations like the Houston Technology Center to fuel young companies whose technologies got their start in university laboratories around the state.
The fruit of those disciplines and investments are very tangible and measurable.
For example, in October and November, Texas recorded the largest over-the-month increases in employment of any state in the country.
As of the latest report, we still have the lowest unemployment rate of the nation's ten largest states a rate that has stayed about two points below the national average for a while.
In fact, Texas is the only top 10 state that has more jobs today than before things started heading south about three years ago and we produced more private sector jobs than any other state over the last 10 years.
Maybe that's why CEO Magazine considers Texas the best place to do business and Moody's Economy lists seven Texas metropolitan areas among their "first cities to emerge from recession."
Our job-friendly approach is likely why the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council ranked Texas in the top three states for small business and entrepreneurship.
I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here because employers like you understand that Texas "gets it" when it comes to jobs.
Employers like you know that Texas understands the importance of a skilled workforce and its origins in a strong public education system.
I want to make ours even stronger by expanding our STEM Academies across the state with a larger investment in these programs that train students in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines that are essential in the new economy.
To me, that's just common sense.
People understand that education always has been and always will be a way for people to improve their lot in life.
People also understand you need good infrastructure like roads, power and water to have a decent quality of life and we need to tackle those issues as our population continues to expand.
As I travel the state and talk to Texans, they aren't looking for pie-in-the-sky concepts.
They want government to exhibit the same common sense principles that guide their family finances or their business decisions.
That's why I have called on our legislature to give Texans the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment that will require a two-thirds vote of the Texas Legislature to raise any taxes.
This sets a nice high hurdle for lawmakers inclined to raise taxes requiring broader support for what I consider a huge decision.
I have also called for a cap on spending growth does not exceed the combined growth rates of inflation and our population here in Texas.
This would allow the state to keep pace with a growing population and account for the upward pressure exerted by inflation while protecting the hardworking Texas families from those who want to raise their taxes.
It will also limit the size, reach and power of government in their lives.
I've also called for similar limits on the folks in Washington by making a balanced budget a constitutional requirement.
Without such limits, the folks in Washington pour out tax dollars on every challenge, blissfully ignoring the consequences while they bury our children under a growing mountain of debt.
Besides the U.S. Congress, what other system allows the folks doing the spending to just raise the debt limit whenever they feel like it?
Just a week ago, Congress sent the president legislation allowing the United States to borrow another 1.9 trillion dollars hiking the national debt ceiling to a historic $14.3 trillion.
Anybody besides me want to call some kind of spending "time out"?
Our best hope is to continue speaking clearly to the powers-that-be in Washington both directly with letters, calls and emails and through the delegation we elect to represent our interests.
On the likely chance that our concerns go unrecognized, we will continue to control what we can control the way we handle our business here in Texas.
We will keep encouraging business leaders like you to take appropriate risk, explore new markets and leverage the Texas advantage.
We will defend the economic climate that has led to Texas being named the top exporting state in the nation for the eighth straight year.
That news just came out yesterday and I'm telling everyone I know about it because Texans need to remember that our state is a leader and the sky is our limit.
Together, we can perpetuate the legacy of fiscal discipline limited government and individual liberty that has made our state so great and is our sterling hope for the future.
As you continue your conversations here at this symposium, I hope that new relationships are established that create jobs and that the optimism I feel in this place will spread across this room then across this whole region as you head back to work.
Texas is on the right track and, with your efforts, will continue to lead.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.