Governor Rick Perry recycled his campaign stump speech and sold it as his State of the State Address to the crowd gathered at the Hyatt Regency this afternoon, as Perry bragged about the economy and railed against Washington for failing to secure the Texas-Mexico border.
"In a word, the state of Texas is strong, but we have our challenges," he said.
Mayor Tom Leppert introduced Perry before his speech, and after rehashing a joke that's made its way around various websites comparing Perry's coyote-killing incident with a hypothetical one by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leppert praised Perry for creating a strong economy and business-friendly environment.
"There is one thing that you can't ignore: Those things don't happen by accident," Leppert said. "They are a result of good, solid leadership at the top -- visionary, determined leadership. And when you see the tremendous success and growth that our state has seen over the past 10 years, you see that this governor, who has been trusted with the job during that entire time, provide leadership and leadership that's moving our state forward."
The mayor's informal endorsement later turned official in a press conference shortly after the event.
Perry began by noting last night's victory by the Texas Rangers over the Tampa Bay Rays -- "Go Rangers" -- saying he was with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at an event in Dallas prior to the game. Giuliani was "talking smack" about the upcoming Rangers-Yankees series, Perry said, and the two discussed a possible wager, with Giuliani suggesting cowboy boots.
The governor then segued into his canned speech, listing the four principles that have led to Texas' success: not spending all its money (leaving cash in the rainy day fund), keeping regulations predictable, making schools more accountable and refining the legal system to cut down on "junk" lawsuits.
"Doctors spend more time in their examination rooms, less time in the courtroom," he said.
Despite controversy surrounding both the Texas Enterprise Fund and Texas Emerging Technology Fund, Perry mentioned both as reasons why jobs and capital investments been brought to the state. Several audience members were given oversized checks from the technology fund.
"That's money that could have gone somewhere else," he said. "Those are jobs that could have gone somewhere else."
While Perry did not address today's Dallas Morning News story about handing over $4.5 million from the technology fund to a campaign donor's company despite its failure to receive approval from a regional screening board, we asked Pastor Stephen Broden, who was on hand among many other politicos, for comment.
"I don't know whether that's campaign rhetoric attempting to marginalize what he's done," said Broden, a Republican running for Congress against Eddie Bernice Johnson. "I don't know if it's true. If it is true, and it's vetted and it turns out to be true, then I think he needs to be accountable. But I don't think any of those charges have been proven, and I think we need to be careful in listening to campaign rhetoric that's trying to besmirch your opponent in order to position yourself in a better light. I think we need to be careful."
Rather than "jack up taxes," Perry said when the state had a $10 billion budget deficit in 2003, he took the same approach as a small business or family around the dinner table.
"We drew a line between wants and needs, and we cut spending," Perry said, suggesting the same approach will be used to tackle what could be a $20 billion shortfall next year.
The governor said he wants to focus on science, engineering, technology and math in schools and aims to implement a policy to lock in tuition rates for college freshman for four years. When Texans are better educated, Perry said, it creates a strong economy, which he sees as a key priority.
"I put it right up there with keeping our citizens safe," he said.
Perry also mentioned his plan to propose a law requiring students under 18 to be enrolled in school or be working toward their GED in order to receive or retain their drivers license, but Broden said his plan needs be explored.
"Some kids aren't in school for different reasons -- different economic reasons," he told Unfair Park. "Some kids drop out of school to find jobs to try to help their families, so you don't want to put a punishment on kids who are trying to do that."
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Broden said Perry offered an "upbeat message" that reflected why Texas is so attractive to other states. And how does he think Perry has done as governor so far?
"I think the proof is in the pudding," he said. "Texas is doing extraordinarily well in terms of its economy. We're attracting new businesses to the state, and we've got more employment and job creating going on than any other state in America. That is reflective of leadership. That's reflective of the kind of policy that supports a business-friendly environment that promotes the economic development that we have seen."