Other Voices

Bipartisan cooperation possible in climate that shuns compromise

As my time as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives draws to a close, I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve, optimistic about the future and committed to continued progress on our priorities.

As the presiding officer of the House, I have tried to bring people together around common-sense policies that address the challenges posed by a rapidly growing population. These are not the issues that tend to drive headlines or register at the top of opinion polls, but they are the very challenges that will shape our future.

For example, we have strengthened career readiness in our public schools and put more Texas universities on the path to Tier One status. We provided long-needed funding for water-supply projects and transportation. And we put a spotlight on our mental health system, which resulted in needed and significant investments in services and behavioral health facilities.

Importantly, we have acted on each of these issues while keeping our commitment to fiscal discipline – we’ve balanced budgets, cut billions of dollars in taxes and kept record amounts of money in reserves.

But there is more work to be done, and while I will no longer be shaping these issues from inside the Texas House, I will use my voice and platform to continue advancing the ideas and solutions we need.

For example, I’ve often said that public education is the greatest economic development tool we have. It’s past time for the state to make a sizable, sustainable investment in our schools.

I’m looking forward to working with others who are focused on our most severe challenges and greatest opportunities. For example, the Texas 2036 project (founded by education-reform champion Tom Luce) highlights the fact that 65 percent of future jobs in Texas will require a certificate or two- or four-year college degree, yet only about 21 percent of the workforce has achieved those levels of education. All of us need to work together on these types of complex issues.

There will be ample opportunity to continue the policy work that we’ve done in the Texas House over the last 10 years. In addition, I will continue to champion the governing style that I believe has served Texas well.

American politics has become more divisive and tribal over the decade, with the angriest voices often crowding out mainstream concerns. But in the Texas House, we’ve shown that there is a better way to lead – with a pragmatic and inclusive approach that balances adherence to core principles with a sense of collaboration and common purpose.

It has always been our philosophy that the issues that are most worthy of our time and attention – education, infrastructure, economic development – aren’t partisan or especially ideological. These issues are best addressed when we bring all voices to the table.

And while we haven’t always achieved the bipartisan cooperation to which we’ve aspired, we very often have. In a political climate that shuns compromise, that’s a real achievement.

Over the last couple of years, Texas voters have voiced support for our approach. It began in the summer of 2017, when the business community joined with leaders from law enforcement, the faith community and education to provide unexpected pushback against discriminatory legislation.

Then, in the 2018 party primaries, Republican voters defied conventional wisdom and overwhelmingly supported mainstream conservative candidates over those who pandered to the far-right fringe.

Now, with the next legislative session approaching, there is a growing sense of urgency to address the issues that we’ve been talking about for many years, such as school finance, and much less attention on issues that do little more than needlessly divide voters. It’s clear there is momentum, and growing public support, behind our brand of politics.

Now it’s time to turn this momentum into action. I look forward to working with Texans who are demanding better schools, relief from high property taxes and a comprehensive, modern approach to economic development. I also hope Texans will join me in calling for unifying, constructive political leadership – leadership that has the credibility and moral clarity to bring us together and solve big problems.

Thank you to all who have given me the opportunity to serve as Speaker, from my constituents in San Antonio to my family to my colleagues in the Texas House.

I also want to thank all 29 million of my fellow Texans. It has been an honor to serve you in this role, and I look forward to standing with you to advance the priorities and governing style that will lead Texas to an even brighter future.

Joe Straus is a Republican from San Antonio who has served as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives since January 2009. He did not run for re-election last year and will leave office with the start of the new legislative session on Tuesday.
  Comments