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Midland Reporter-Telegram - Lt. Governor Remains Optimistic Despite Expected Budget Shortfall

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Location: Unknown

By Kathleen Thurber

With the state poised to double in population during the next 25 years, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said maintaining a business friendly environment to allow for additional job creation will be vital to Texas' success.

"Texas is a good place to go invest and grow jobs and that's what you all are doing," said Dewhurst, speaking to a group of about 50 at a Wednesday evening fundraiser. "This state's open for business. We want to create more jobs."

Acknowledging Texas has experienced some economic downturn as a result of the national climate, Dewhurst said Texas still is the leading state for businesses because its fundamentals remain in place.

"All we can do is make sure government doesn't get in your way," Dewhurst said, adding the regulatory system is light and roadblocks for companies eliminated.

Placing the expected budget shortfall for the upcoming Legislative session at between $16 billion and $19 billion, Dewhurst said state leaders will tighten state spending and also dip into the $10 billion that's estimated to be in the "rainy day fund."

If 5 percent of everything except public education and health and human services were cut, the state would save $1.7 billion, Dewhurst said when speaking to the Reporter-Telegram editorial board earlier in the day.

From there, he said, they will go through and look at where additional dollars can be saved. Having worked with Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, to balance the budget amid a shortfall in 2003, Dewhurst said he's been through the process of cutting without raising taxes before and with the help this time of the state's savings, they'll be able to do it again.

His opponent Linda Chavez-Thompson says on her website she also would utilize the rainy day fund if needed, particularly for education spending to ensure teachers don't lose their jobs. From there, she writes, Medicaid reimbursement rates need to be increased and the criteria for qualifying for the Children's Health Insurance Program expanded.

Dewhurst said the cost of Medicaid already is on the rise and with the recently passed health care bill, the state will be absorbing dramatic increases in mandated spending unless a repeal is passed.

To accomplish that, he said, a war against Democratic candidates needs to take place because it's only in replacing President Barack Obama that a repeal would be possible. Texas also has filed a suit against the reform, he reminded those present Wednesday evening.

In addition to health care, Dewhurst said the federal government continues to make life difficult for Texas.

"I have never felt more like we were walking around with a bullseye on our back," Dewhurst said.

From allowing Rep. Lloyd Doggett to add requirements for Texas to receive its $830 million in federal education dollars to canceling EPA permits to putting a moratorium on offshore drilling, Dewhurst said the Obama administration has it in for the Lone Star state.

"They treat Texas differently," Dewhurst said.

However, he said, with the right leadership in place and Republican wins in November and in 2012, Texas will be able to thrive as it absorbs growth.

Former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans said Texas has the leading business climate in the country because of leaders like Dewhurst.

"People in Washington are jealous of us here in Texas," Evans said. "They're particularly jealous of the leadership."

Bobby Holt, who hosted the fundraiser, agreed and said this election cycle is an important one in which he hopes people will take advantage of their rights and vote.

Oilman Clayton Williams said he visited Dewhurst two years ago wanting to get more staffing at the Texas Railroad Commission so that permitting would be done in a more timely manner and thinks he and other Republicans are important to have in place for the oil business.

"He's been very quiet, very much behind the scenes," Williams said. "We had many achievements under Dewhurst and (Gov. Rick) Perry."

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