I drove to San Antonio this morning to hear Perry’s speech. It occupied the 8:30 – 9:45 time slot. I was making good time on I-35 until an ominous message appeared on one of those black information signs. “Major accident at I-410 West. Use caution.” Soon everything slowed to a crawl. We sat motionless for a long time. Eventually the procession got underway again, but by that time I had missed the first part of the speech. Originally I had heard that Perry would be speaking on the subject of state’s rights, but that was not the case. By the time I found may way into the auditorium, he was criticizing the federal government and bragging about the Texas economy. He talked about passing the “loser pays” legislation: “We’re going to let employers spend their time growing their businesses rather than being cross-examined in court. (But if they are in a loser-pays lawsuit, they are going to be cross-examined, yes?) In going through his list of what he had done in Texas, the next item was, “We’ve assembled a world-class work force.” I don’t see how he can make that claim with a straight face. The dropout rate and the low percentage of adults without high school diplomas–Texas ranks 51st among the states–tell a different story. We do not have a well educated work force. Perry continued by saying, “There has been no shortage of naysayers [about Texas’s fiscal policies] saying that we should follow the lead of other states and spend more money. At no point have those voices been louder than leading up to the legislative session.” “We spent $15 billion less while preserving essential services, and we kept $6 billion in the Rainy Day fund in case of a hurricane or a natural disaster.” How did we “preserve essential services” when we spent $4B less on education than in the previous biennium. We didn’t even fund enrollment growth. “We made the tough choices. You can’t tax and spend your way to prosperity.” No, but you can not-tax your way into a crippling deficits, which is exactly what Texas has done by allowing a structural deficit to exist in the state’s budget without making any effort to close it. “You can’t put too heavy a burden on employers.” “Regardless, I believe our philosophy in Texas will put us in better shape than any other state.” “To hear Standard & Poor’s tell it, our nation’s credit was a victim of the culmination of a reckless culture of spending. We took massive debt and piled it on the next generation’s credit card.” “You can’t say spending cuts were too deep, as Keynesians would have you believe.” “We have to address debt in a serious way. Simply put, our country is in trouble, our fiscal house is built on shifting sand. The federal government tried to spend its way its way out. We must not have a federal bureaucracy that extends into the work place. We can’t stop runaway entitlements without giving states any local control.” “I believe in one of our darkest hours, this West Texas optimist sees brighter hours around the corner.” “I want to thank you for letting me come and share my heart with you.” * * * * I would describe the applause for Perry’s remarks as “tepid.” Of course, NCSL is a bipartisan organization, so the audience was mixed R and D. Tepid is not surprising. Perry was speaking as a governor, and appropriately so, not as a presidential candidate. He was interrupted only once by applause while I was a spectator, and that was when he referred to the passage of the “Loser Pays” legislation.
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