In a joint press conference Tuesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and newly sworn-in Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen each addressed the public, an event that Lt. Gov. Patrick said hasn’t happened in recent Texas history.
“We are going to work together, and work swiftly, to address the problems of the State of Texas,” said Abbott. He named school finance, property taxes, Hurricane Harvey aid, and school safety as the top issues.
Lt. Gov. Patrick reiterated the focus and the message of cooperation. “We are united. We are working together for the interests of Texas,” he said. “We are going to get the job done.”
Patrick went on to say that though they may not agree on what the final outcome looks like, they agreed on the issues. He also reminded the public that the final solution depends on their input.
“That’s what the legislature is for,” he said. “That’s what public testimony is for.”
Despite the variety of ideas, Patrick was confident they would be able to enact strong solutions for Texans.
“If the three of us are aligned, it’s going to happen,” he said. “I think we are going to have the best session we have ever had in the state of Texas.”
Speaker Bonnen said the three leaders have been meeting frequently since he secured the speaker nomination in November, and he’s encouraged at their focus and commitment to work.
“I appreciate their being so welcoming and helpful in me transitioning to speaker,” said Bonnen. “We know that we must have success.”
Bonnen said his list of priorities included ending the “broken Robin Hood” school finance system, a topic all three state leaders discussed. “We don’t want to just throw money at schools,” said Abbott.
The leaders agreed that taking better care of and rewarding the state’s teachers would be the central focus of any sort of school finance reform.
“Next to the parent, the teacher is the single most important person in the life of the student,” said Patrick. “Not enough money spent on education is spent on our teachers.”
Bonnen echoed that sentiment, mentioning that he has heard many teachers say the only way they could get increased pay was to take on an administrative role at the district level. “The path to more money in education should not be outside the classroom,” Bonnen said. “Teachers will be the focus.”
Lt. Gov. Patrick also fielded a question on his noticeable absence from the opening of the legislature yesterday but downplayed his missing of the first day, saying State Sen. Jane Nelson did a terrific job in his place.
“When the White House calls, you go,” he said. Patrick added his visit was in no way a gesture of any kind of departure from the Office of Lieutenant Governor.
“I will be the lieutenant governor as long as I can be,” he said.
With the 86th Texas Legislature officially underway, Gov. Abbott again reminded everyone of the “Big 3’s” focus.
“Our property taxes are too high, and we need to do more to improve education,” he said. “We have a voter mandate to address these issues.”
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