Citing an increasingly diversified Texas economy, former Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday defended the “Texas Miracle” — the decade of rapid growth during his 14-year tenure — and said there’s no reason for undue concern about the plummeting price of oil.
The price for West Texas crude oil has dropped significantly over the past few months, hovering on Wednesday around $32 per barrel — down from more than $60 this time last year. Last week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar told lawmakers that the plunge means “clouds on the horizon” for the state budget, but he doesn’t believe the sky is falling.
The price drop will mean hundreds of millions of dollars less than budgeted for the state's highway fund, but it won't torpedo the economy, Hegar added.
Perry echoed Hegar’s perspective Wednesday in his speech to the The Bond Buyer’s Texas Public Finance Conference.
“I truly remain very bullish about the state of Texas,” he said.
Perry recalled a similar plunge in oil prices during the mid-1980s, when the state economy relied more heavily on the oil and gas industry.
“I know what a turndown’s all about,” he said, adding that market fluctuations don’t necessarily mean cause for alarm. “I’ve seen this movie before. Matter of fact, I think this is the third iteration of it.”
It’s not clear how well Perry’s reassurances will work. Last week, when Hegar made similar arguments to the Senate Committee on Finance, some did not seem placated.
“I just don’t want to live in a state of denial,” Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, told him.
But several defining principles of the Texas economy — especially low taxes and limited regulation, all hallmarks of Perry’s tenure — will keep the state’s economy growing, the former governor said.
“I’m here to tell you, people are still moving to this state because the reputation of Texas is — if you want to live free from over-taxation, over-regulation, over-litigation, in a place where there is a skilled workforce, this is where you move to,” he said. “It didn’t happen by accident.”
Perry also spoke briefly, with a note of wistfulness in his voice, about his suspended campaign for the presidency.
"Don't think that life doesn't have some interesting twists for you, no matter what age or place in life you may be," he told the crowd. "I could be traipsing around New Hampshire right now."
"You never know what you're going to be doing in life. That old adage of, 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?'" he said. "Yeah, try that one on."