On Tuesday, newly minted Governor Greg Abbott addressed a joint session of the Texas Legislature to set forth his policy proposals for the 84th Legislature. In his remarks, Abbott made clear that he intends to follow through on promises he made during his campaign and encouraged members to pass the conservative reforms Texas voters demand.
A key issue of Abbott’s agenda is his strong desire to see significant tax relief in the state budget. In his speech, the governor specifically repeated earlier promises to veto any budget that comes to his desk without substantial relief from business and property tax taxes.
“I will reject any budget that does not include genuine tax relief to Texas’ employers and job creators,” said Abbott. “I will also insist on property tax reduction. It’s time for property owners – not government – to truly own their property.”
The Governor’s budget proposal includes a total of $4.2 billion in tax cuts, with $2 billion in reductions to the state’s onerous franchise tax, and $2.2 billion earmarked for much needed property tax relief.
Not content to simply cut taxes, Abbott also laid out a plan to structurally reduce spending, beginning with a 10% decrease in his office’s own budget. He also called for most state agencies to reduce their budgets by 3%. Moving forward, Gov. Abbott also emphasized the need to systemically constrain the growth of government.
“To protect taxpayers from government growing too big, we need a constitutional amendment that limits the growth of the state budget to population growth plus inflation,” Abbott stated.”The more we restrain the growth of government, the more we will empower hardworking Texans. These budget cuts will make our budget even leaner while helping us prioritize spending that will make our state even stronger.”
Additionally, Abbott addressed what has become a major priority for Texas voters—transportation funding. In his budget, he adds an additional $4 billion dollars to the State Highway Fund through a variety of maneuvers, including the existing funding from Proposition 1, ending diversions, and constitutionally dedicating half of the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax to fund roads—a measure proposed by State Sen. Robert Nichols.
Also on the agenda was support for school choice initiatives. The governor came out strongly for reform on the issue, calling it a priority for parents who are involved in the education of their children.
“Parental involvement is critical to student advancement. The ultimate parental involvement is giving parents more choices in their child’s education,” said Abbott.
In the address, Governor Abbott also labeled five emergency items for the legislature this session. The issues declared included early education, higher education research initiatives, road funding, border security funding and ethics reform.