Fresh out of his first legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday said he has started working on ways to improve education and attract more jobs to Texas, among other initiatives.
“This chamber can count on me to be your strongest ally in economic development,” Abbott told a crowd of hundreds gathered at the downtown Hilton Hotel for the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce 35th annual awards luncheon. “I’ll work with this organization’s leaders, and business leaders across Fort Worth, to help you attract and keep jobs.
“I will also work tirelessly to ensure the next generation has an opportunity to prosper.”
Introduced by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price as a “dear friend,” Abbott touched on three main topics — education, economic development and honoring the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth — during his speech.
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“The truth is Texas is exceptional, and you all are a big reason why,” said Abbott, the state’s 48th governor. “Our job … is to keep Texas the land of opportunity where the improbable becomes the possible.”
The governor’s remarks come after the 84th Legislature wrapped up business June 1, passing more than 6,000 bills, state records show.
The 84th Session
This year, during Abbott’s first session as governor, conservative lawmakers won big gun battles, passing proposals to let licensed Texans openly carry holstered handguns across the state and concealed handguns on college campuses — measures Abbott has already signed into law, although they haven’t gone into effect.
Despite often-contentious partisan battles, lawmakers accomplished their top priority of passing a budget, which totals $209.4 billion and includes $3.8 billion in franchise tax cuts and property tax relief as well as $800 million for border security.
They spent more money on roads and pre-kindergarten classes throughout Texas, provided an average of $125 in relief per property owner and approved measures ranging from preventing bans against hydraulic fracturing to allowing a very limited form of medical marijuana that makes its use legal for Texans with intractable epilepsy if federally approved medication hasn’t helped.
Sunday is the last day Abbott can sign or veto bills passed during the regular session. Any bills that were passed, but aren’t signed or vetoed by Abbott by then, automatically become law.
So far the governor has vetoed nine bills that touch on issues ranging from water conservation measures to detaining people with mental illnesses.
College bond package
This week, one of the bills he signed into law was a $3 billion bond package to help colleges throughout Texas with desperately needed construction projects.
The measure, the first state bond package for Texas universities since 2006, goes into effect Sept. 1 and lets bonds be sold for construction. The Legislature usually uses general revenue to pay off the bonds.
“By making education a priority, we will live up to the ideal that every child has a chance to dream and to achieve,” Abbott said Friday of all his education initiatives.
Three key Tarrant County projects that will receive funding are:
▪ University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth: $80 million to help build a four-story interdisciplinary research building at the northeast corner of Camp Bowie Boulevard and Clifton Street. The total cost of the building — with 150,000 square feet of research and teaching labs, classrooms, study rooms, multimedia learning areas, and faculty and administrative offices — is estimated at $121 million, health science center officials have said.
▪ University of Texas at Arlington: $70 million to help construct a science and education innovation and research building. UTA asked for funding to help with a 210,000-square-foot building for “collaborative science and engineering research programs with specific focus on Bioengineering, Architectural Engineering, Engineering Management, Biology, Chemistry, Resource Engineering, and Health Science,” according to an online legislative request. The total cost of the building is estimated at $190 million, according to the document.
▪ A local Tarleton State University campus: $39.6 million to help establish a southwest Metroplex building for Tarleton State University in Fort Worth. Tarleton officials said last year that they plan to build a campus along the new Chisholm Trail Parkway in south Tarrant County on land donated by the Walton Group, a Canada-based developer. The campus is geared to help serve the thousands of Tarleton students who already come from Tarrant County. The college’s main campus is in Stephenville.
Abbott noted that Texas continues to thrive, adding more jobs last year than any other previous year.
He said Texas has been the top exporting state for 13 years running and has been ranked as the “best state for doing business” for 11 years in a row. Not only that, but he said Texas has the second-fastest growth in businesses owned by African-American women and women in general.
Despite accomplishments in economic development — and work done to better Texas’ educational system, which is needed to create a solid future workforce — Abbott said there’s much more to be done.
“By making education a priority, we will live up to the ideal that every child has a chance to dream and succeed,” he said. “The truth is, when you succeed, Texas succeeds.”
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610