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Abbott: I'll Be "Bigger and Bolder" in Luring Jobs

In an interview, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott also told the Tribune he wants to "learn the facts" before deciding if the head of HHSC should be canned, and plans to appoint university regents "focused on elevating" institutions.

Greg Abbott is shown visiting the Senate chamber on Jan. 13, 2015.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comments.

Through the Texas Economic Development Corporation, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott said he plans to be "even bigger and bolder" than his job-creating predecessor, Gov. Rick Perry, when it comes to attracting businesses and jobs to the state.

But it is not clear what, if any, role Perry's preferred incentive funds, the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, will play in those efforts.

"Having a deal-closing fund can be an effective tool in keeping Texas competitive with other states," Abbott said in an interview on Friday, "provided that fund can be structured in a way that satisfies criteria of being transparent and having a certain level of removal from the appearance that it is being used in some sort of way that is considered inappropriate."

Some doubts about whether that could be said of the Enterprise Fund were raised by a scathing state auditor's report last year, and Abbott said subsequent wariness about the programs "has some level of justification." He said the incentive funds should be "looked at, re-evaluated and, if continued, restructured."

The Texas Economic Development Corporation, particularly through a promotional program called TexasOne, works with the governor's office to attract out-of-state businesses and encourage them to relocate in the state.

The final months of Perry's administration have been marked by a contracting scandal at the state's Health and Human Services Commission, led by Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek.

Asked about Janek’s fate at the agency, Abbott said he would not make any personnel decisions at least until after he is sworn into office on Tuesday.

Abbott has put together a strike force of Texas government veterans to evaluate the agency, which is also being investigated by state auditors. Abbott indicated that he would wait for their findings and recommendations.

“I think it’s important to learn the facts first before the decisions are made,” he said. “It is essential for the effective function of the agency that we get to the bottom of the issue with contracting, and that we have contracting procedures in place that will ensure transparency and propriety in the contracting.”

Abbott provided slightly more insight into the approach he will take to appointing university regents.

At the University of Texas System, the hands-on approach some regents have taken when it comes to the flagship university, Abbott’s alma mater, has caused controversy both at the university and the Legislature.

When the governor-elect gets the chance to appoint new regents to the UT board, or any other board, he said, he would be seeking people who are “focused on elevating” institutions.

“I want people who are dedicated to the job who will focus on bringing excellence to the organization,” he said of the regents. “I will give them marching orders about what I want them to achieve, and I expect them to achieve it without micromanaging.”

As for the coming days in the Legislature, Abbott said he had yet to determine what, if any, matters he might designate as emergency items, making them eligible for consideration in the first days of session.

He also said he would, in his State of the State address, focus on the “bread and butter issues that will continue to keep Texas on a pathway toward being the best state in the nation.”

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