Thank you Brooke Rollins and thank you to the good people at the Texas Public Policy Foundation for doing what some might call the "grunt work" in policy formation.
Your research, reporting and advocacy for sensible governance are a great help as the legislative agenda for the 82nd session takes shape and we work to keep Texas on the right track.
You know, my folks used to tell me "don't believe everything you read in the paper" and that advice is more useful than ever as reporters and pundits do their best to paint a picture of impending budgetary disaster.
I'm not belittling the very real challenges facing our legislators but I do think it's important to bear in mind the one clear advantage they have clear direction from their bosses the people of this great state.
Clear direction is what we all got on election night last November.
The voters want us to balance the budget without raising taxes as we make government even leaner and more efficient.
In short, they want more of what we've done here in Texas over the past decade.
Back in 2003, we faced another challenging session and the doom and gloom crowd was saying a lot of the same things that we've heard over the last several days right Talmadge?
We resisted their pleas to raise taxes and remained dedicated to our time tested principles of fiscal discipline.
That yielded an economy that generated more jobs than any other state in the union has led the nation in exports for eight years running and is home to more Fortune 1000 firms than any other state.
In the last few years, as the ripple effects of the global and national recession began to reach Texas our sound policies helped us rebound quicker than other states.
Now those policies are helping Texas lead the way to recovery.
As an American, it troubles me to see the folks in Illinois who are about to get hit with a significant tax increase that their legislature thinks will solve their financial problems.
As a Texan, blessed with our state's well known competitive spirit I'm fired up about businesses that might trade the Land of Lincoln for this land of opportunity called the Lone Star State.
I want those employers to know that our commitment to the principles that have energized our economy is stronger than ever.
We need to keep taxes low so Texas families can keep more of their hard-earned money and employers can channel their resources into hiring more people and buying new equipment.
We need to maintain our predictable regulatory structure and fend off intrusive federal agencies like the EPA as they threaten Texas jobs and our successful air quality programs.
We need to continue the fight against lawsuit abuse because employers aren't doing anybody any good when they're tied up in court.
I hope the 82nd Legislature will consider improving our important tort protections during this session with even greater accountability, transparency and efficiency.
Victims of frivolous lawsuits shouldn't have to bear the financial burden of defending themselves.
Instead, that responsibility should fall to the individual who brought the suit in the first place.
Texas is one of a very few states who do not currently have an "early dismissal" option for obviously frivolous lawsuits but we should.
We should balance that new power for judges by ensuring new causes of action can only be created by the Legislature in a transparent and deliberative manner.
We need to make our system more accessible to the little guy by setting up expedited trials and limited discovery for lawsuits with claims between $10,000 and $100,000 dollars.
These reforms would further improve the legal climate in our state impart even more energy to our economy and ratchet up the fairness of our system.
Our economy also relies on the renewal of our talent pool so we need to continue investing in education especially subjects like science, technology, engineering and math so Texans can successfully compete for future jobs.
These are the basic building blocks of an economy that has drawn new employers to our state and our calling is to fortify them.
When times get tight, voices will always call for higher taxes but that is exactly the wrong approach to take given the burden it places on Texas families and their employers.
Do we really need to tell struggling families that they haven't given enough to the government?
Do we really want to derail the job friendly climate that drives our economy?
Nothing kills creativity nothing stifles innovation nothing halts progress more quickly than raising taxes.
As the national and global economies struggle to recover that approach looks even more misguided.
Instead, we need to balance this budget with existing revenue evaluating every state program to determine wants vs. needs then resisting the calls to raise taxes.
By following those guidelines no matter the situation we can get the job done.
Of course, budgeting is only part of the job at hand. I recently designated eminent domain and a ban on sanctuary cities as emergency items for this session.
We've tweaked eminent domain laws over the last few sessions and it's time to finally get those protections for property ownership right.
I've been working with Senator Estes & Representative Geren and other stakeholders on this issue for years and we agree that their bill, as filed, will get the job done.
We must also abolish sanctuary city rules so that professional law enforcement personnel have the discretion do their job keeping our families and neighborhoods safe.
While immigration laws and their enforcement are the responsibility of the federal government we cannot compound their failure by preventing Texas peace officers from doing their jobs.
In the end, this will not only make our peace officers safer, but also the citizens they are sworn to protect.
The Legislative session is about more than just seeing our state through another budgeting cycle.
We're still dealing with the whims of a group of people thousands of miles away in our nation's capitol whose decisions are proving costly to our state.
While we hope the November elections have at least slowed Washington's ongoing encroachment on our affairs there are still plenty of big government advocates calling the shots in our nation's capitol.
We need to keep pushing back against federal encroachment in areas ranging from health care delivery to the way we educate our children.
Time and again, Texas has demonstrated the ability to solve these types of challenges through innovation and a dedication to solid conservative principles.
With your support and continued input, those very principles will continue to guide us over the course of the next 138 days and set our state's direction for years to come.
Given our track record, I'm very encouraged at our prospects for success.
May God bless you, and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.