Depending on your perspective, election night was either a sweeping mandate for change or support for the current state of affairs.
Across most of the country, voters rejected the president’s policies and replaced many of his top supporters. In Texas, the results were an overwhelming confirmation of our state’s approach to governance.
While campaigns come and go, the messages from their outcomes are crucial to understanding voters’ concerns. But campaigning is different from governing, and our task in next year’s legislative session is to convert these ideas into sound policies.
Transportation financing will be one of the items at the top of the agenda. Proposition 1 passed with more than 80 percent of the vote. It was a significant message from voters: We support the funding of critical transportation needs using existing revenues.
The Prop 1 mandate includes a voter desire to fund highway construction — but not toll roads.
At the same time, the message from those opposed to Prop 1 should not be lost. Many feel that the Texas Department of Transportation should be more efficient and should provide additional transparency on how projects are funded and chosen.
It will be our job to work on transportation financing solutions while supporting taxpayers’ concerns about accountability.
The issues of border security and illegal immigration are top-of-mind for Texas residents.
After a large increase in illegal immigration this past summer, Texas dramatically increased resources at the border. Candidates made this issue a central part of their campaigns, and their victories foretell even more state action.
Many people are worried that another wave of illegal immigration may be coming. Without further measures on the border, the Texas budget will continue to feel the pinch from increased healthcare, education and public safety costs.
In this next session, we must analyze these costs, train and hire additional personnel for border purposes and deploy new technologies.
No other item received as much attention during the last session as did HB 2, the landmark pro-life bill.
Sen. Wendy Davis used her filibuster of the bill to raise money from San Francisco to Washington D.C. — and to launch her gubernatorial campaign. Her crushing defeat by governor-elect Greg Abbott was due, in large part, to her stand against the grain of the Texas position on life.
Texas has passed three of the most important pieces of pro-life legislation in just the past few years: HB 2, the sonogram bill and the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Elections have consequences, and Wendy Davis’ defeat will only serve to further boost support for pro-life legislation.
One major item that did not receive its fair share of the campaign attention was public education. This is even more remarkable considering that Judge John Dietz released his long-awaited decision on public education finance just two months before Election Day.
This is an issue where Republican officials can and should lead. Improving the quality of education is not a partisan issue, but by remaining relatively silent the ruling Republican party allowed Democrats to gain crossover votes.
I see an incredible opportunity for us to make positive education finance reforms in next year’s session — before being forced to do so by the courts.
Maintaining Texas’ lead in economic growth is the core issue for every action in the next session.
Our state’s desire to keep conservative, free-market Republicans in statewide office was heard loud and clear. While other states attempted to tax and spend their way out of the recession, our plan was nearly the opposite.
Today we are blessed with lower unemployment, increased income and a robust rainy-day fund. We will work every day to improve on our successes.