During a Capitol news conference in which he announced the selection of his senior staff, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott said Monday that education will be his top policy priority.
Abbott said he wants to improve the educational foundation that students receive in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. "I want to ensure that all children finish the third grade reading and doing math at or above grade level," he said.
He also said he wants to ensure that students are graduating from high school "and moving on to the next phase of their lives" — whether that is college or a career. For those seeking higher education, he said his administration intends to work toward making that goal more affordable. They also hope to elevate the status of the state's public universities.
"One of the areas that disturbs me is the fact that five of the top 10 public universities in the country are from California, with none being from Texas," Abbott said.
Abbott laid out three other priorities Monday, including attending to the state's southern border. While securing the border is a federal responsibility, Abbott said, "Texas is not going to stand idly by and wait for Washington."
Improving infrastructure was also highlighted. Specifically, Abbott said he hoped to add $4 billion more per year for building roads "without raising taxes, fees or tolls."
Abbott's final priority was to usher in a "new era of economic development in Texas," which he said could be accomplished by making progress on his first three priority items. It would also include reducing the tax burden on businesses and individuals, lowering regulatory costs, and empowering the private sector by finding ways to "restrain the growth of government."
Helping him advance this agenda will be a staff that the governor-elect described as “seasoned veterans with tremendous leadership experience."
"They know how to get things done at the Capitol as well as communities across the state of Texas,” he said as he announced his team, many of whom are following him from the attorney general's office.
Daniel Hodge, the current first assistant attorney general, will serve as Abbott's chief of staff. Julia Rathgeber, the current Texas Department of Insurance commissioner, and Robert Allen, the deputy chief of staff at the attorney general's office, will serve as deputy chiefs of staff. Kara Belew, who is currently senior counsel at the attorney general's office, will be the budget director, and Jimmy Blacklock, the deputy attorney general for legal counsel, will be the governor's general counsel.
Drew DeBerry, the deputy commissioner of the state's agriculture department, will be Abbott's policy director. Randy Erben, a lawyer who previously served as assistant secretary of state, will be his legislative director. Luis Saenz, who is also a former assistant secretary of state, will be the appointments director.
Abbott previously announced that he intends to nominate Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos to be the next secretary of state.