Put simply, the state of Texas is fundamentally, and consistently, strong.
I don't think that's going to come as a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention for the last decade, as I'm sure all of you have been.
The conservative fiscal principles that are the foundation of our economy have been consistently paying dividends, throughout a major recession and during the years since.
Texas remains a top destination for CEO's seeking the best place to expand or relocate their business.
It remains a top destination for people seeking a better life, with our ranks swelling by 1,000 people a day.
It remains a growing destination for tourists from across the country and around the globe.
That all starts, however, with a job-friendly economic climate that steadily draws the attention of top decision-makers in the business world.
That's because this is a climate where any employer has the opportunity to thrive and be competitive on a global scale.
That's helped establish Texas as the top exporter in the country for 10 years running.
This didn't all happen by chance.
More than a decade ago, we set out to create a Texas where investors could confidently invest their capital and expect to see a solid return on that investment.
And, thanks to our low taxes, get to keep more of that return.
We set out to create a Texas where job-creators could put down roots and know they wouldn't be tied up in miles of government red tape and regulations.
We created a Texas where our court system won't allow for over-suing, essentially putting an end to extended, often frivolous lawsuits filed as nothing more than get-rich-quick schemes by predatory attorneys.
And we dedicated ourselves to cultivating a workforce that stands ready to fill any need an employer could have, from the assembly line, to the sales office, to the laboratory.
We're about a decade into those efforts, and I think the results speak for themselves.
fDi Magazine recently awarded Texas the 2012 Governor Award for being the most successful state in the nation at attracting foreign investment, and that publication is far from alone in its praise of the Lone Star State.
Chief Executive Magazine has named Texas the country's "Best State for Business" for the eighth consecutive year, and we're committed to making it nine in a row next year.
Texas has also received accolades from media outlets like USA Today, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Site Selection Magazine.
More importantly than good press, though, is that Texas continues to be the nation's epicenter for job creation.
This means that people in Texas have a better chance at finding a new job, or a better job, that improves their lives and the lives of their families.
So, how have we done it?
It's actually pretty simple.
We don't spend more than we bring in, balancing our budget every biennium, and keeping billions in reserve in our Rainy Day Fund.
We have no, and will have no, state income tax, and we're pressing to make 40,000 small businesses permanently exempt from our state's margin tax.
Earlier this year, I proposed the Texas Budget Compact, a collection of five basic steps our legislature should take to ensure we continue adhering to the bedrock principles that have gotten us where we are today.
They are, practice truth-in-budgeting, support a stricter constitutional limit on spending, oppose any new taxes or tax increases, and make the small business tax exemption permanent, preserve our strong Rainy Day Fund, and cut wasteful and redundant government programs and agencies.
At the heart of the Compact is the idea that money does a lot more good in the pockets of individuals than it does in government coffers.
The compact has been designed to keep government honest, as small as possible, and as efficient as it can be in providing essential services like educating our children and caring for our most vulnerable citizens.
By sticking to that formula, we can enable employers and employees alike to keep more of their hard-earned dollars, which translates to a stronger economy, and more, and better, jobs.
That's the Texas way, and again, the Texas way is working.
As exciting as our present is, our future holds promise far beyond what we've accomplished so far.
That's because our state has diversified its economy, and is rapidly developing into a national center for emerging high tech, breakthrough medical research and other cutting-edge industries.
Already, world-class research is being conducted and put to work at our universities, and at any number of startup companies stretching from Houston to El Paso, and all points in between.
A few months ago, in fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Texas A&M University would be home to a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, a national center that will rapidly develop and manufacture vaccines and therapies to help secure us from the threat of bio-terrorism and global pandemic.
That just goes to underscore, whether on the cutting edge of biotech, communications, commerce or privatized efforts to serve the needs of the next generation of space explorers, you will find Texas at the forefront of the movement.
The question before us, as we approach the 83rd Session, is how we're going to preserve and improve the climate that's gotten us this far, and that we'll need to take us to the next step.
Probably the biggest obstacle we'll face is our own success.
With our economy surging, we've consistently seen major growth in our revenue collections month after month.
That's led a lot of people, usually with their own agendas, to make the case that the time for fiscal conservatism has passed.
In the papers, on television, and certainly online, you'll all hear a lot about how much "extra" money we've got floating around these days.
Of course, they're ignoring that it's our policies of restraining spending and limiting taxes that have led to our economy's success.
They're also ignoring the fact there's no such thing as "extra" money, and the tough decisions we'll have to make in the months to come aren't any different from the tough decisions we've made at the height of the recession.
We still have to think about what's in the best interest, long-term, of our communities and our state.
We still need to make good decisions now to ensure that we remain the economic power that we've grown to be.
We simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels, just like we cannot begin taking our jobs-friendly economic climate for granted.
That's why I think we need to take a hard look at reducing the tax burden on all Texans during the next session.
We need to ensure consumers and employers alike have more cash on hand to pay their bills, hire more people, and invest in new efforts.
We need to reduce the demands on our innovators so they're free to innovate, and able to turn their great ideas into great success.
We need to continue streamlining our government, do more with the resources we have available, and continue delivering needed services in an effective, and efficient, manner.
I discussed an aspect of that earlier this month, when I called upon the Legislature to enact reforms including the authorization of drug screening for TANF and unemployment benefit applicants.
In the case of TANF benefits, this will help prevent tax dollars from going into the pockets of drug abusers and drug dealers alike, and instead ensure this money goes to the people who truly need it.
I'ts part of ensuring taxpayer dollars are protected and used in the fashion for which they're intended.
Regarding unemployment benefits, we must remember these benefits are simply not meant to be a way of life, only a bridge from one lost job to the beginning of another.
For prospective workers who know they'll need to pass a drug screening in order to work again, part of their responsibility is to be prepared and available for work by remaining drug-free.
It's not the role of the employers who fund these benefits to carry workers who keep themselves in an unemployable condition.
As we look forward to the Legislative session, there are other items we need to work on, including some that are desperately important to the job creators of the future, who may be weighing the benefits of a college education.
That's why I've proposed a four-year tuition freeze for incoming freshmen.
Not only will this give students cost certainty heading into their education, it also will provide a powerful incentive for them to finish their degree on time.
Currently less than 30 percent of students at Texas' four-year institutions graduate in four years, and only 58 percent have their degree in six.
Clearly, the system can, and must be improved.
That's why we also need to link a portion of each university's funding to student outcomes.
Under the existing formula, university funding is based primarily upon enrollment, but I'm calling for a portion of that funding - 10 percent -to be tied to how many of those students are actually receiving degrees.
Put simply, if you're not graduating your students, you'll get less state funding.
This will encourage universities to do everything they can to help their students complete their degrees, and graduate in a timely fashion.
We also need to expand the number of universities offering degrees for $10,000.
These programs provide an opportunity for students to earn low-cost, high-quality degrees that will get them where they want to go in their careers and their lives.
Currently, 10 universities have signed on, and people at other universities are thinking, and thinking hard, about how to meet this challenge.
By leveraging technology, or utilizing other innovative techniques, they're figuring out how to educate more young Texans at a reasonable cost.
Ladies and gentlemen, Texas is thriving and the state of our state is strong.
We have adhered to conservative principles that have steered us through the dark days of recession and lifted us as the model for economic success in this nation.
Once again, I thank you all for your time and attention, and I urge you all to be at the very top of your game going forward.
We'll need all of you to be at your best and brightest in the months and years to come, as we continue to make Texas, and Waco, even better places to live, work, grow a business and raise a family.
God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.