Abbott backs up the rhetoric with a serious, detailed plan for curbing government growth and forcing it to live within its means. The “Working Texans” plan consists of eight broad sections, covering matters from strengthening the governor’s line-item veto power to fighting unfunded mandates from the state to local governments, to looking ahead to the growing state’s transportation issues. More people living here mean more houses, more cars and more trucks and trains to move goods, which means more roads and more larger roads to carry all that. Abbott’s 15-page plan calls for reforms to the state’s budgeting process, and calls for increased transparency at the local level. Behind Texas’ success story lurks an unsettling fact: While the state government does well to live within its means, local governments are carrying massive debt. Abbott’s plan doesn’t shy away from tough issues, and takes that problem on head-on. “Working Texans” calls for cities to post detailed information on the debt they carry, all the way down to the level of school districts. The information would include the original purpose of the debt, and how the money was actually spent. Abbott’s “Working Texans” plan also recommends a constitutional amendment to force state spending limits based on population growth and inflation, and an amendment that would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to override that limit.
All of this is to “right-size” government as Abbott said in Brownsville today, which he says needs to be done to keep Texas growing.
“Today, Texas is one of the leading economies in the world,” he said. “But, we’re beginning to see warning signs of problems. Unemployment still remains above where it was before the recession. Last month, the Tax Foundation downgraded Texas’ status out of the top ten states in the country. The size of our state government has grown faster than our population. Our local debt load is the second highest of the large states in the country. We’re beginning to see cracks in our economic foundation that could lead to serious damage for taxpayers if the right policy choices aren’t made.
“To keep Texas on the right track, we must never forget that you know better how to spend your money than do bureaucrats in Austin or Washington. To help you keep more of your money, to preserve your pursuit of happiness that was embedded as a bedrock principle in our foundational document, government must be restrained in taking your money.”
“Working Texans” also calls for protecting the state’s Rainy Day fund, stop diverting funds designated for building roads to other uses, make sure that designated funds are spent for their designated purposes, and establishing a Citizen Commission on Government Waste to help the state identify and eliminate unnecessary agencies.
In his speech, Abbott did not name the likely Democratic nominee for governor or the president she supports, but he did draw a clear line on the kind of Texas he envisions, and the kind that his likely opponent envisions: “Some people want to transform Texas into California—a free-spending nanny state that puts government behind the wheel and citizens at the mercy of its edicts. But I believe in the Texas model of freedom—and so do a lot of Californians. More Californians are fleeing to Texas than any other state.
“As Governor, I will protect that freedom and those economic principles.”
“Texas is a job-creating machine and Texans are the force that powers it. I will be the Governor who keeps it that way,” Abbott concluded.