In front of a large crowd outside of the Texas Capitol, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick were sworn in for their third terms in their respective offices this morning.
Lt. Governor Patrick was the first to deliver his inaugural remarks, after being introduced by former State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) and State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). In his remarks, Patrick spoke of Texas having what he described as “the strongest economy on the planet” and laid out what he called a “people’s agenda” of policy priorities for the legislative session.
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With a record budget surplus, Patrick emphasized the need for property tax relief for homeowners and businesses. Patrick stated that the proposed budget in the Texas Senate will include an increase in the homestead exemption to $70,000. For businesses, Patrick proposed an increase in the business property tax exemption to $100,000.
School choice was also highlighted by Patrick. Saying he was working with Governor Abbott on this issue, Patrick discussed his desire to pass legislation to ensure that Texas students will not be forced to attend a failing school. Responding to concerns that school choice would harm rural Texas, Patrick pledged to ensure that rural schools would be protected and noted that just 49 school districts educate more than half of Texas students. Patrick also observed that both he and Gov. Abbott campaigned on the issue of school choice, and both won rural Texas by wide margins in their re-election campaigns.
Other issues mentioned by Patrick included border security, reforming tenure for college professors with classroom responsibilities, funding law enforcement in rural counties, increasing funding for mental health resources, and strengthening the electric grid.
Patrick also spoke of the importance of bipartisanship the Texas Senate. “We normally pass 98 to 99% of all bills with Republicans and Democrats signing off on the bill. We’re not Washington DC. We’re a family in this legislature,” said Patrick. As Lt. Governor, Patrick has appointed at least one Democrat committee chairman in every legislative session that he has presided over the Texas Senate.
The bipartisan traditions of the Texas legislature have come under attack recently by Matt Rinaldi, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. In a recent tweet criticizing Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan for recognizing that “a lot of the stuff we do in the Texas House is not Republican-Democrat”, Rinaldi described Phelan’s comment as “pure fantasy” and wrote “In a world where minutia like your choice of stove has become partisan, what areas of policymaking can still reasonably be described as “non-partisan?”
In his inaugural address, Governor Abbott also bragged about Texas’ economic prosperity. “Texas is America’s undisputed economic leader, providing pathways to prosperity for all Texans”, said Abbott. “Our $2 trillion economy is now the ninth-largest in the world.”
Abbott joined Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan in calling for significant property tax relief this session, stating that the “record” budget surplus “belongs to the taxpayers” and will be used “to provide the largest property tax cut in Texas history.”
Infrastructure and the resiliency of the electric grid were also a focus of Abbott’s remarks. Abbott spoke of the successes in fixing Texas’ power grid, stating “I signed 14 bipartisan laws that fix the flaw in our power grid. Then, last summer, we set 11 all-time power generation records, and last month we weathered brutally freezing temperatures across the state. All without any disruption to the Texas grid. Since our bipartisan reforms, no Texan has lost power because of our grid.”
On the issue of education, Abbott touted the quality of Texas schools, noting that Texas has one of the highest high school graduation rates in America, and leads the nation in National Blue Ribbon Schools and Tier 1 Research Universities.
Abbott also stressed the importance of parental empowerment in education, and the need to ensure a quality curriculum. “Schools should not push social agendas. They must focus on fundamentals,” said Abbott.
Public safety and border security were also focal points of Abbott’s address, with the Governor announcing support of legislation to impose mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of offenses involving the use of a firearm or smuggling illegal immigrants.