Thank you Joe Ols, for that introduction and for all you do as a part of the vital small business community in Texas.
I know the big companies get most of the ink, but the real drivers of job creation in Texas are our small business owners and bold entrepreneurs who take real risks pursuing their dream of owning their own businesses.
In Austin right now, we're facing a challenging legislative session with tough decisions looming as we thoughtfully make our way through the budget writing process.
At small businesses and around kitchen tables all over our state these kinds of challenges are very familiar.
They've been dealing with the impact of the recent global recession every day, finding new ways to tighten their belts, separating wants from needs, and making responsible decisions to live within their means.
We have an obligation to taxpayers to take those same kinds of steps in Austin, making government more efficient and streamlined, and cutting spending without raising taxes.
There is no shortage of naysayers who say Texas has to follow the lead of states elsewhere, who dig into the pockets of its citizens early and often in an effort to avoid tough, but necessary, decisions about their own budgets.
Illinois, for example, is raising taxes up to 66 percent for some of its taxpayers.
Here in Texas, we know that you can't tax and spend your way to prosperity.
We know that small business owners and families across this country have already given plenty throughout this recession.
That's even true here in Texas, where we are emerging from the recession in much better condition than most states.
Our business friendly environment has helped us attract new employers, even in the midst of the recession.
These businesses were fleeing over taxation and over regulation in other states expanding or relocating to a place where they're free to succeed and create jobs.
We can expect more of them heading our way as long as we remain committed to the principles that have helped us earn recognition as the best state to do business.
Our unemployment rate has been consistently about a full point lower than the national average,with Texas employers leading the nation in job creation in 2010 and our job growth rate last year nearly double that of any other top ten state.
This legislative session, we have to take every step possible to preserve the climate that's made all that possible.
Again, the most important step is keeping our taxes low because dollars do far more to create jobs and prosperity in the people's hands, than they do in the government's.
That's why I've asked the legislature to make the small business tax cut that we passed last session permanent.
Balancing our budget without raising taxes will keep us moving forward out of these tough economic times, creating more jobs and opportunities, and leaving Texas more competitive than ever.
Secondly, we need to improve our legal system to make it even harder to file frivolous lawsuits in Texas.
In 2003, we reformed our tort system by limiting non economic damages awarded in medical lawsuits.
The results have been overwhelming with insurance rates for doctors easing, enabling thousands of Texas doctors to continue practicing medicine in the Lone Star State and attracting doctors from outside the state, drawn by the increased fairness of our legal system.
We need to take the next step in tort reform, adding a "loser pays" component to our legal system, in which those who file a frivolous lawsuit and lose are required to pay the court costs and legal expenses of those they sued.
Texas is one of a very few states that doesn't have an "early dismissal" option for obviously frivolous lawsuits, but we need to change that.
We need to also set up expedited trials and limited discovery or lawsuits with claims between $10,000 and $100,000 dollars.
These reforms would further improve the legal climate in our state, helping keep small business owners in our state and on the job where they can generate income to build their businesses and create jobs, instead of throwing it away on unnecessary legal fees.
The steps we take in Austin this session have to answer the questions. Are we being good stewards of taxpayer dollars? And how do we create new opportunities for Texas families and employers like Joe?
By keeping our families and small businesses strong, we will continue the prosperity we've enjoyed in Texas over this past decade.