Perry unfazed by Abbott fundraising, focused on tax relief during session

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 10, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 11 at 9:55 AM

AUSTIN -- Meeting with KVUE at his office on the second floor of the Texas State Capitol, Governor Rick Perry recalled his first day as a freshman state representative from West Texas in 1985. 
 
"It was exciting driving down South Congress and looking at the Capitol and realizing that I had the great privilege to work in that building. It was very exhilarating," Perry said. "This morning when I left and went around to North Congress and came into the Capitol complex, I looked at the Capitol and I was just as excited."
 
This year could be particularly exciting for lawmakers, if solely for the fact that the biennial revenue estimate for the state heading into the 83rd Texas Legislature projects a nearly $30 billion in revenue over the next two years. Part of that includes $8.8 billion left unspent from the last session.
 
"Sometimes that makes it even more difficult when you hear there's plenty of money," said Perry, who has cautioned lawmakers this week to separate "wants" from "needs" rather than greenlight additional spending.
 
The governor supports pursuing some form of "tax relief" rather than increased spending, and points to the federal government while making his case.
 
"Whether it's health care, whether it's the tax policy, their inability to stop spending, the list goes on and on. Washington is you costing more. Government is more intrusive in your life because of Washington's activities," Perry said. "For us in Texas to give tax relief at this particular point in time would be a powerful juxtaposition."
 
Perry outlined the tax relief proposal Wednesday in a media conference along with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). While there were few specifics then, the governor told KVUE one idea could stem from his Texas Budget Compact presented in April 2012.
 
"One of them was to make the small business exemption, make businesses that were between zero and $1 million exempt from the margins tax, exempt from the business tax," Perry explained. "That's one idea and one that we hope they'll make permanent." 
 
After the 82nd Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion from public education in 2011, the current legislature will face a fierce fight over whether to restore any or all of that funding. Democrats have insisted that the funding be restored. While pledging that funding will increase, the state's top Republican leaders have not voiced an interest in increasing funding beyond adjusting for increasing enrollment growth.
 
"There's not any doubt that there's going to be more dollars flowing into public education, partly just because as you said the growth that we've had," said Perry, who believes the cuts were right decision at the time. "All the other programs should be looked at. Education is no different than any other aspect of government from the standpoint of: You come, you make your arguments, you bring forth what you want your result to be and the legislature will make a decision about the level of funding for that particular program." 
 
Perry declared legislation to crack down on "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants an emergency item last session, but has thus far refrained from declaring any emergency items in 2013.
 
The governor maintains that this early in the session with committee appointments yet to be made, it's too early to begin identifying emergency items this year.
 
On the topic of immigration reform, Perry says the job should be up to Washington.
 
"Until Washington decides to secure our border which is one of their functions, constitutional functions I might add, any talk about immigration or immigration reform is a bit premature," Perry said.
 
Despite promising an announcement in June or July of 2013, speculation continues regarding the governor's future campaign plans, as well as those of Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
 
A source close to large Republican donors has said Abbot has indicated his intent to run in the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary. 
 
"Everybody gets that opportunity. As you recall, Senator Hutchison also announced that she was going to run for governor back in 2009," Perry responded. "So everybody gets the freedom to do that. I'm real focused, which I hope the general is too, on this legislative session, on the issues that face this country."
 
Both leaders have championed conservative policies in Texas and have worked together on numerous issues, but neither has formally announced his plans for the future.
 
According to the most recently available filing from July 2012, Perry's campaign committee reported $3.4 million cash on hand. In the same period, Abbott's committee reported a $14.5 million war chest.
 
Asked whether a large fundraising advantage for Abbott would discourage the governor from competing in a primary race with the attorney general, Perry reiterated his commitment to a summer announcement.
 
"If folks want to speculate, that's their business," said Perry. "But I've been underestimated many times before. So we'll just let it set right there."

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