State Sen. Wendy Davis on Tuesday rolled out a slate of reforms — ranging from improving education to making better decisions on transportation and water — geared to build and boost the state’s economy.
Davis told about two dozen local businessmen and women at the downtown Omni Hotel that there’s more for state leaders to do: Ensure that workers are paid equally for the work they do, crack down on payday lending, raise the minimum wage and make sure Texas continues to lead in the oil and gas industry.
The Fort Worth Democrat said she and opponent Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offer Texans a real choice in their multimillion-dollar battle to become Texas’ 48th governor.
“We can go with a chosen leader, one with a record of successfully using economic tools to grow the economy, or we can choose an ultimate insider who just doesn’t get it,” she said.
Davis didn’t have a price tag or an exact funding mechanism for the economic proposal she unveiled Tuesday, which appeared to mostly be a compilation of other plans she has proposed.
But she said she would ask the Legislature to review any tax loopholes on the books to generate funding that can help. She said the state gives up more than $43 billion through such loopholes each year. And she ruled out a tax increase to generate needed dollars.
“Sen. Davis just announced her plan to increase the cost of doing business in Texas and impose mandates that threaten jobs,” said Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for Abbott’s campaign. “She brought back more from California than the money she raised there — she also brought back their big government ideas.
“Sen. Davis would make the next four years in Texas look like that last six years under Barack Obama.”
Other candidates in this year’s governor’s race include Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer.
On the same day Davis gave this speech billed as a major economic address, Abbott released his first statewide general election TV ad.
The Spanish-speaking ad, geared to air during the World Cup, features his mother-in-law and sister-in-law talking about Abbott’s values.
“The story of my family mirrors the story of Texas: We are multicultural,” he said. “The vision that I’ve outlined in my campaign for governor is one that unites all Texans — regardless of race, religion or ZIP code — the same way my family has been united. As governor, I will fight for a better future for all Texans.”
Education and more
Davis said public education is a priority, particularly making sure there’s full-day pre-kindergarden for all Texas children. She said teachers need to be less bound by teaching to tests, and more money should flow to schools and teachers.
She added that state leaders should make college more affordable by “doubling the number of college-credit hours available to high school students and by doubling the number of early college high schools throughout the state.”
She said the state’s transportation infrastructure and water supplies need to beefed up. For too long, she said funds have been redirected to other needs.
“The shortsighted folks who’ve been in charge in the past couple of decades have been more interested in their political scorecards than in addressing our state’s long-term challenges,” she said. “And make no mistake about it, Greg Abbott will do the same.”
She said she would support something similar to the ballot initiative to create a $2 billion revolving fund for water projects and other initiatives Texas voters approve. And she said she is glad that Abbott also proposes ending diverting transportation funding for other needs.
“Between the two major party candidates asking for the privilege of serving this state as its next governor, I am the only one with real world economic development experience,” she said.
She also said she continues to support Texas’ oil and gas industry, which has provided a way to “capture our minerals, grow our economy and create jobs.”
Pay, loans and Medicaid
Davis said all workers should be paid an equal salary for an equal day’s work and leaders should support increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
She also said in such tight economic times that it’s more important than ever to crackdown on predatory payday lenders.
“When I see the folks who are preyed upon by these lenders — folks like schoolteachers and members of our armed forces who have sacrificed so much for us — … I am outraged,” she said. “The state has ignored its responsibility to protect Texans from unfair lending practices for far too long, and I will not abandon the Texans who need help most.”
Davis also criticized Gov. Rick Perry for repeatedly refusing to participate in the country’s Medicaid expansion. He has said that expanding the program isn’t the best move for this state.
“Why anyone believes that it’s a good idea to force hardworking Texans to pay over $100 billion in taxes over the next 10 years that they will not see returned to their state … defies explanation,” she said. “It certainly surpasses the common-sense thinking of this Texas gal.”