Governor Perry Returns Money to Texas Taxpayers, Touts Education Reforms

Fresh from delivering his State of the State address, Texas Gov. Rick Perry spent more than half an hour on a conference call with state bloggers. Perry hailed bloggers as "pioneers of the new media" as he described his take on current issues.

Texas' longest-serving governor could go down in Texas history as the education-reform governor. Perry led off the conference call noting that he is spearheading a pair of reforms that may transform education in the Lone Star State. At the elementary and high school level, Perry is calling for expanding public school and voucher programs. These will provide necessary competition for traditional schools. At the university level, Perry is pushing state universities to enact a four-year tuition freeze. This, he said, will help students and families budget the costs of a university education. "Citizens of the state are really responding to it," he said. "Universities should become customer centric. The onus is on the universities to make classes affordable."

He noted that some will be skeptical of his tuition-freeze just as they have been of his call for universities to create $10,000 four-year degrees. Despite the skepticism, he said, 13 universities in Texas now have $10,000 degrees in place. "It's the wave of the future," he said. "Folks who resist will go the way of the buggy whip industry."

With tax relief on his mind, Gov. Perry also touted a new state website that allows Texans the opportunity to direct where Texas can cut its spending to save money. While other states are struggling with budget shortfalls due to overpromising government services, Texas has a $12 billion surplus. Most of that will remain in the state's rainy day fund, but Perry wants to send $1.8 billion of it back to the state's taxpayers. The website will let taxpayers help determine where to make the cuts.

On a lighter note, I asked Perry about President Obama's claim to be an avid skeet shooter. Gov. Perry is a lifelong firearms owner and skeet shooter. He said that he has to take the president at his word, but noted that the only photo of him shooting skeet turned out to be a fake. Gov. Perry said he would be happy to challenge Obama to a skeet shooting contest, but "he's a busy man."