AUSTIN (January 8, 2013)--A booming Texas economy and rosier state revenue picture should allow lawmakers to cut taxes, Gov. Rick Perry told the state Senate during the opening day of the Texas Legislature’s 2013 session Tuesday.
Perry said lawmakers should continue limiting the size of government and "take a look at tax relief."
His comments came a day after Comptroller Susan Combs said Texas would have $96.2 billion in estimated new revenue, a sharp contrast to the far weaker 2011 prediction, when a sluggish economy exacerbated a $27 billion shortfall that triggered deep spending cuts.
"Two years ago we chose a fiscally conservative path that has led us here today by prioritizing and tightening our belts," Perry told the lawmakers.
"This session is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the policies that have made Texas economically strong in the first place,” he said.
“When people keep more of their own money it’s better for them, it’s better for their families, and it’s better for the state. It’s time to take a hard look at providing tax relief.”
Perry said his priorities for the session include ensuring the state’s infrastructure supports growth in population and economic demands, and maintaining an accountable education system that produces a skilled workforce.
He also says lawmakers should hew to key provisions of the Texas Budget Compact including truth in budgeting, support for a constitutional limit tying spending to population growth and inflation, opposition to new taxes or tax increases, making the small business tax exemption permanent, preserving a strong Rainy Day Fund and cutting unnecessary or redundant programs and agencies.
Meanwhile Tuesday the Texas House re-elected Joe Straus as Speaker, fending off complaints from tea party and conservative groups that he was too moderate for a third term.
The House elected the San Antonio Republican by acclimation after the only challenger, David Simpson of Longview, dropped out of the race.
The speakership is one of the most politically powerful positions in Texas.
Simpson was the second state representative to challenge Straus after Mineola Republican Bryan Hughes withdrew his candidacy in December.
Many tea party groups, and conservative activists such as Empower Texans, complained that Straus is not conservative enough and that he appoints Democrats to key positions, and that he suppresses legislation that’s important to fiscal and Christian conservatives.
Straus said Tuesday public education is the top priority of the session and that lawmakers must also take "bold, substantial action" in the next 140 days to address a mounting water crisis in the face of a rapidly growing population.
Texas lawmakers meet once every two years, when they must pass a two-year budget and any other legislation the state may need.
The budget is always the biggest issue, and this year lawmakers have $101 billion to spend, although Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have pledged to keep the budget at less than $89.29 billion.
A top priority will be filling a $5.2 billion deficit in the current budget, created by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, which failed to fund Medicaid fully.