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The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 9, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry's glass-half-full view of the state's affairs was on full, defiant display on Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Perry delivering his State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2011

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Gov. Rick Perry's glass-half-full view of the state's affairs was on full, defiant display on Tuesday.

In his State of the State address, delivered to a joint session of the House and Senate, Perry — as he's done since coasting to re-election on the perceived strength of the Texas economy — downplayed the $15 billion to $27 billion budget shortfall facing the state.

"The mainstream media and big-government interest groups are doing their best to convince us that we're facing a budget Armageddon," Perry said. "Texans don't believe it, and they shouldn't."

Perry, touching on all of his pet themes — fiscal restraint, increased government efficiency and the overreaching arm of the federal government — called Texas' economy "the envy of the nation." (The Tribune's Emily Ramshaw dutifully liveblogged the whole thing, if you missed it.)

After the speech, though, Perry released his own budget plan, which included a number of specifics that could appear in final drafts, which the Legislature ultimately writes and approves. Among other proposals, Perry recommended suspending the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Backlash ensued.

But an upbeat Perry wasn't deterred from sneaking in a pointed political jab, saying the state's "tight budgetary times [were] made worse by a certain Texas congressman who singled out our state for punishment in pursuit of his own agenda." That certain congressman? U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who last year worked an amendment into a bill that kept Texas from receiving federal funds unless it promised to maintain its current spending levels on education. (Republicans in the U.S. House have recently signed on to an effort to repeal the amendment.)

In a statement, Doggett said Perry's "jibe says less about the state of the state and more about his own state of denial."

Democrats also piled on Perry for his sunny analysis of the state. As state Rep. Dawnna Dukes said, according to the Austin American-Statesman, "Those rose-colored glasses are way too thick."

CULLED:

  • The state's electric grid operator is bracing for the possibility of another day of record energy demand as temperatures across the state plunge again. Officials said they don't expect to force rolling blackouts as they did last week but have again encouraged consumers to conserve energy during peak demand hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • At the beginning of the legislative session, state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, challenged House Speaker Joe Straus for his seat, leading many to believe that Straus would deny Chisum any coveted committee assignments, as has historically been the case in such instances. Yet Chisum has told the Amarillo Globe-News that he'll be sitting on the House Appropriations Committee, a key panel that he chaired in 2007. Straus has yet to announce committee assignments.
  • U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison wants a DREAM Act do-over. Hutchison, who voted against a version of the bill that stalled in the Senate in December, said Tuesday she'd work to pass a version of the bill that protects foreign-born students and members of the military from deportation — but doesn't provide them with a pathway to citizenship, as did the failed version of the bill.

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