Thank you Will Newton, Executive Director of NFIB, for that introduction and for everything your organization does for small business in Texas.
Over the course of the day, you all will have heard from some of the most notable elected officials in Austin, including Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Straus.
I think it's safe to say NFIB has the State of Texas' full attention.
That's how it should be, and not surprising, given the importance of small businesses to the Texas economy.
We all know the big companies tend to draw the biggest headlines and they do, in fact, have a very important role to play.
But we also know the real drivers of job creation in Texas are our small business men and women; bold entrepreneurs who take real risks pursuing their dreams of owning their own businesses.
Small business owners represent the true vibrancy of the Texas economy with the jobs they create and their contributions to the positive economic climate that helps us attract employers of all sizes to the Lone Star State.
Small business owners are making a real difference in countless lives for countless families from the Panhandle to the Gulf coast.
As we speak here today, someone, somewhere in Texas is coming up with the next big idea, a better way of doing something or doing something that's never been done before.
Fostering these types of innovations is vital to keeping Texas at the forefront of the national economy and when these innovators are ready to go to market, I know the efforts of NFIB will make it easier for them to succeed and thrive.
So, on behalf of current and future Texans who will all benefit from a healthy and growing small business community, I thank NFIB for all they do.
Everybody knows 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 across this state, these kinds of challenges are very familiar.
Small business owners have 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 the taxpayers of this state to take those same kinds of steps here in Austin by making government more efficient and streamlined and cutting spending without raising taxes.
That's our responsibility and that's our goal.
There is no shortage of naysayers who insist Texas has to follow the lead of states elsewhere, who dig into the pockets of its citizens early and often trying to avoid tough, but necessary, decisions about their own budgets.
Illinois, for example, just raised taxes 66 percent for some of its taxpayers.
In Wisconsin, a governor who's trying to make the very real changes that the people of his state have called for him to make is colliding with entrenched special interests that are eager to maintain the status quo at any cost to the state's 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 and has created jobs.
These businesses were fleeing over-taxation and over-regulation in other states expanding or relocating to a place where they're free to succeed.
We can expect more of them heading our way as long as we remain committed to the principles that have helped make us the best state in the country to do business.
Our unemployment rate has been consistently 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 big state.
This legislative session, we have to take every step possible to preserve the climate that's made all that possible.
It didn't happen by accident. It happened because, over the last decade, Texas leaders have made principled, thoughtful decisions; not over-taxing, over-regulating or over-litigating our citizens.
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.
To that end, it's time to make the small business tax relief we passed in 2009 permanent.
Small business is an important job creation engine.
Keeping the small business exemption at $1 million dollars provides 40,000 small business men and women with much-needed tax relief, leaving more dollars in their pockets to invest in new hires or new equipment.
Unfortunately, this was only temporary relief. Allowing that tax cut to expire with the national economy still on uneven footing would be a critical error in judgment, as would be any type of tax increase.
Balancing our budget without raising taxes will keep us moving forward out of these tough economic times, creating more jobs and opportunity, and leaving Texas more competitive than ever.
We also need to further 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 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 build on this success and further strengthen our legal system by adding a loser pays component so that those who file a frivolous lawsuit and lose are required to pay the court costs and legal expenses of those they sued.
Loser pays will effectively combat the problem of habitual plaintiffs filing lawsuit after lawsuit and rolling the dice with jury and judge in the hopes of striking it rich.
Texas is also one of few states that doesn't have an early dismissal option for obviously frivolous lawsuits but we should.
We should also make it clear that a statute doesn't create a cause of action unless the legislature specifically says it does- because everyone has a right to know if their behavior would make them subject to a lawsuit.
Lastly, we need to set 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, helping keep business owners in Texas 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 this session have to answer the questions . Are we being good stewards of taxpayer dollars? How do we create new opportunities for Texas families and small businesses?
Only by keeping our families and small businesses strong can we continue the type of prosperity we've enjoyed in Texas over this past decade.
May God bless you, and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.