Gov. Greg Abbott stretched his power to the limit Tuesday when he addressed legislators in his biennial “State of the State” address.
When it comes to legislation, the Texas governor doesn’t have much power, but he can talk a good game. He can tell lawmakers what he thinks they should do — and Abbott did that in full force.
After the lawmaking is done, he can veto bills he doesn’t like or strike line items from the legislatively approved budget — all of which gives some weight to what he’s saying now.
In his speech to a joint session of the state House and Senate, Abbott urged legislators to adopt at least 21 initiatives he deems high priority.
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And four of those — reforming Child Protective Services and the foster care system, banning “sanctuary cities,” government ethics requirements and calling for a “Convention of States” to amend the U.S. Constitution — he labeled as emergencies, meaning lawmakers can get to work on them immediately.
Afterward, Abbott released budget recommendations that contained still more high-profile items.
He recommends $103.3 billion in general purpose spending for the next two-year budget cycle. That’s $275.7 million less than the Senate’s initial budget and more than $5.5 billion less than the preliminary House plan.
The governor’s budget comes in under the $104.9 billion that Comptroller Glenn Hegar says will be available without dipping into Rainy Day Fund savings.
Abbott would continue to spend $800 million on continued Department of Public Safety border security efforts, even though President Donald Trump plans to ramp up federal efforts in that area.
The governor called for an additional $500 million for CPS and foster care, up sharply from the $310.6 million in the House and Senate blueprints.
He pushed for $236 million in spending on “high-quality” pre-Kindergarten grants to school districts, double what’s in the current budget.
Deep in his budget documents, he called on the Legislature to “take steps toward reducing or eliminating” the Robin Hood school finance plan that transfers tax money from rich districts to poor districts.
He also pressed for giving Texans more power to challenge local ordinances in court.