FORT WORTH — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott came to a local business Wednesday to talk about jobs — an issue he said will be a top priority in his campaign to become the state’s next governor.That’s why he is proposing changing the Texas Constitution to give the governor the power of a line-item veto, put more limits on state spending and curtail lawmakers’ ability to dip into the rainy-day fund.“Yes, we must do all we can to secure our border,” said Abbott, a Republican. “Yes, we must secure broader education opportunities for the future.“But the issue I hear about the most… is that Texas [needs to] remain No. 1 in this country for jobs.”Abbott spent more than an hour Wednesday at the Justin Boots distribution center in Fort Worth, where Republican Gov. Rick Perry held a gubernatorial campaign appearance in 2010, shaking hands with supporters, posing for pictures and talking about his “Working Texans” policy plan.“Texas has the best state economy in America. Let’s work to keep in that way,” he told a standing-room-only crowd of several dozen supporters who included state Sen. Kelly Hancock and state Reps. Stephanie Klick, Giovanni Capriglione, Jonathan Stickland and Bill Zedler. “Let’s build a Texas worthy of the next generation.“Texas is the job-creating machine and Texans like you are the energy that powers that machine,” he said. “With your help, I’ll be the governor who keeps it that way.” Abbott announced his gubernatorial candidacy this year after Perry said he wouldn’t seek a record fourth term in office. He became the perceived GOP front-runner because of the more than $20 million in his war chest. He will face at least one opponent in the Republican primary in March, former state GOP Chairman Tom Pauken.State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is also in the race.Constitutional amendmentsAbbott said the plan he outlined Wednesday in Fort Worth is crucial.“Today, Texas is one of the leading economies in the world. But, we’re beginning to see warning signs of problems,” he said. “Unemployment still remains above where it was before the recession. Last month, the Tax Foundation downgraded Texas’ status out of the top 10 states. “The size of our state government has grown faster than our population. Our local debt load is the second-highest of the large states in the country,” he said. “We’re beginning to see cracks in our economic foundation that could lead to serious damage for taxpayers if the right policy choices aren’t made.Among his proposals are creating constitutional amendments to:• Limit the amount the state budget can grow by linking spending to population growth and inflation.• Give the governor the ability to veto items line by line in the state budget.• Protect the state’s rainy-day fund from “being raided” by state legislators.• Prevent funds from being diverted to help balance the state’s budget and remove “budgetary sleights of hand.”He said money dedicated to improving Texas roads should be spent on improving Texas roads. And he said it’s crucial for state lawmakers to stop proposing unfunded mandates that foist additional costs on Texas communities. More than that, he said, financial entities should be required to post financial information online.And he said, “Voters should be given more information — on the ballot itself — about current debt, before making a decision whether to vote for more debt.”He plans to campaign on these and other issues for the next year and if elected, he said, he will have a mandate to make these proposals reality.“My plan is to keep Texas on the right track,” Abbott said. “My plan will control the size of government … and let you, Texas men and women, keep more of your money.”Tea Party concernsThe Lone Star Project, a federal political action committee led by Democratic political consultant Matt Angle, sent out an email saying Abbott has an “identity crisis: one campaign, two faces.”The email said Abbott generally hands out campaign materials with different approaches, depending on the audience he faces that day.One caters to the Tea Party, touting his conservative credentials, the email says, and the other delivers a toned-down message.“The Greg Abbott Tea Party Plan is a scam,” Angle said Wednesday. “It is designed to appease Tea Party ideologues and no one else. “It ignores the core concerns of mainstream Texans.”Strong supportLocal residents who gathered to listen to Abbott included Bill and Pat Skinner of Grapevine.Pat Skinner said she met Abbott years ago at a barbecue in Dallas and has liked him ever since.“He doesn’t use his disability as a handicap,” she said.Her husband said Abbott has their support.“I think he’s honest and I think he tells the truth,” he said.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley