State of the state of Texas

Texarkana Gazette - - OPINION - Fort Worth Star-Tele­gram

Texas is in great shape and in great need.

That’s the beau­ti­fully blended mes­sage in Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State ad­dress to the Texas Leg­is­la­ture’s cheer­ful cham­ber of law­mak­ers in Austin on Tues­day morn­ing.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a “State of” speech for any other state or na­tion that is more con­fi­dent, as­pi­ra­tional or bol­stered by pleas­ant re­al­ity. Es­pe­cially as com­pared to other places you could live, Texas is on a roll.

As Abbott notes, peo­ple are mov­ing here in droves—1,000 a day. They come for 1,000 rea­sons, though Abbott em­pha­sized those who’ve made “life-al­ter­ing de­ci­sions” to move to Texas by virtue of be­ing “fed up with big gov­ern­ment poli­cies in­creas­ingly run­ning their lives.” In Texas, he de­clared, they’ve found “a gov­ern­men­tal Holy Grail.”

With Abbott tout­ing the fastest-grow­ing econ­omy in the coun­try, lead­ers of the state’s eight largest Cham­bers of Com­merce in the au­di­ence held aloft the four con­sec­u­tive “Gover­nor’s Cups” the state has won for the most new and ex­panded busi­ness fa­cil­i­ties.

“I’m proud to tell you, the state of Texas has never been bet­ter,” the gover­nor de­clared.

Most heads of state say that al­most ev­ery year. But this one may be right.

Even so, Abbott quickly piv­oted to needs so glar­ing and ur­gent that he de­clared them emer­gen­cies need­ing quick ac­tion: school fi­nance re­form and teacher pay; school safety; men­tal health; prop­erty tax re­form; and dis­as­ter re­sponse.

He’s got all that right, too, though prop­erty own­ers and ed­u­ca­tors breath­lessly await the leg­is­la­ture’s re­sponse to the twin school fi­nance/prop­erty tax emer­gen­cies. How will law­mak­ers pro­vide re­lief to prop­erty own­ers while boost­ing school fi­nance and teacher pay, while help­ing poorer dis­tricts? Their al­ready-an­nounced plan to sim­ply cap lo­cal prop­erty tax in­creases at 2.5 per­cent would ham­string lo­cal of­fi­cials but do lit­tle else.

It’s hard to ar­gue with the gover­nor’s pri­or­i­ties; he has set an is­sues-ori­ented agenda for the state. The devil is in the de­tails, of course, when com­pet­ing in­ter­ests do bat­tle in the House and Se­nate.

One bat­tle we hope is won, how­ever, is Sen. Jane Nel­son’s fight to en­hance and ex­pand men­tal health ac­cess, par­tic­u­larly to trou­bled youths. The Tar­rant/ Den­ton Dis­trict 12 sen­a­tor, chair­woman of the pow­er­ful Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, al­ready has all 31 se­na­tors back­ing her SB 10, which would fa­cil­i­tate pe­di­a­tri­cian con­sul­ta­tions with psy­chi­atric ex­perts at Texas med­i­cal schools; al­low for telemedicine men­tal health screen­ing of youths; and cre­ate a Men­tal Health Care Con­sor­tium to co­or­di­nate these and other ini­tia­tives.

We also ap­pre­ci­ate the gover­nor’s em­pha­sis on tack­ling hu­man traf­fick­ing, which is a scourge of un­al­loyed evil tak­ing place right un­der our very noses. He’s pro­posed six new re­gional hu­man traf­fick­ing squads, to bol­ster ex­ist­ing state and lo­cal anti-traf­fick­ing units.

There is much to like in Gov. Abbott’s State of the State ad­dress. There is much for law­mak­ers to now do, to re­al­ize the gover­nor’s vi­sion and the state’s true po­ten­tial.

The gover­nor is right that, in so many ways, Texas is in great shape. But he’s right that there is also great need.

How­ever buoy­ant the State of the State spec­ta­cle was, the leg­is­la­ture has its work cut out for it­self.

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