Gov. Rick Perry delivered his sixth State of the State speech today, addressing a joint session of the Texas House and Senate, and selling the state's fiscal troubles as an opportunity to make government more efficient.
Perry offered a litany of proposals, from challenging Texas colleges and universities to offer a $10,000 bachelor's degree — including textbooks — to asking lawmakers to consider outcome-based financial aid — basing a portion of their funding on the number of degrees they churn out. He also recommended suspending funding for four Texas agencies, including the Texas Historial Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Among his other highlights:
— Requiring students to be enrolled or working toward a GED if they want a driver’s license.
— Giving employers a $1,500 tax break for every employee who earns a diploma or GED during hours off from work.
— Freezing Texas college tuition for four years.
— Charging repeat sex offenders with life without parole for certain offenses, and monitoring high risk offenders via GPS for three years after they’re released.
Perry also hit on his emergency items for this session, including voter ID, tougher eminent domain laws and abortion sonogram legislation. And he lashed out against Washington — from “Obamacare” to EPA “mandates” to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s education amendment.
For context, Doggett supported a measure — what some call the "Doggett Amendment" — that required Texas to maintain state funding of schools for at least three years to get $830 million in federal money from the Education Jobs Fund, because he didn't want Perry to replace state funds to education with federal money. Now, Perry has refused to sign the application for the $830 million with the Department of Education, saying that Texas can't guarantee future funding without the permission of state lawmakers. Abbott is currently suing to get the money without the strings attached.
Working on a response from Doggett's office.
Texas added more jobs in 2010 than any other state; Texas had six of the nation's top-20 strongest performing metro areas; For the sixth year running, Texas was the top destination for relocations.
He says raising taxes is not the answer. "Are we facing some tough choices? Of course we are, but we can overcome them by setting priorities, by cutting bureaucracy, by reducing spending and focusing on what really matters."
Starting with eliminating duplication, by "moving the Department of Rural Affairs into the Department of Agriculture." Suspending funding for the Historical Commission and the Commission on the Arts until the economy improves.
Voter ID — "Most Texans, regardless of party, believe the integrity of elections would be improved by requiring participants to show a valid photo identification before voting."
— “Let’s expand our Virtual School Network, with a Virtual High School that will enable students who have dropped out to earn a diploma online."
— Require students to be enrolled or working toward a GED if they want to get a driver’s license.
—Offer employers a $1,500 tax incentive for every employee who earns their diploma or GED after receiving two hours off per week with pay to study or go to class.
—“Outcomes-Based Funding” in which a significant percent of undergraduate funding would be based on the number of degrees awarded.
— A 4-year tuition freeze
— "I’m challenging our institutions of higher education to develop bachelor’s degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks."
— “College Credit 4 Heroes,” a plan to offer veterans credit for their skills and experience.
— "Texas needs a “loser pays” component in our legal system, in which those who sue and lose are required to pay the court costs and legal expenses of those they sued."
"We must establish criminal penalties for employers who knowingly hire workers who are here in violation of immigration law."