AUSTIN — Declaring that there are "no sacred cows" in state government, Gov. Rick Perry outlined proposals to suspend two state agencies and consolidate others while renewing his call for lawmakers to balance the state budget without new or increased taxes as they confront a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall.
In his State of the State address to a joint session of the of the 82nd Legislature, the state's longest-serving governor reiterated his message that the state’s much-publicized budget problems are not as severe as the media and advocacy groups suggest. But he said that lawmakers must look for ways to tighten up government spending and make the state bureaucracy run as efficiently as possible.
"If ever there was a time to truly reform our approach to governance and streamline our organization, it is now," Perry declared "Frank discussions about the true purpose of state government, must be followed by a willingness to act on our convictions."
Perry called for lawmakers to suspend "non-critical" entities like the State Historical Commission or the Commission on the Arts until the economy improves and recommended moving the Department of Rural Affairs into the Department of Agriculture as part of an effort to consolidate government functions.
He also urged lawmakers to "take an even closer look" at the state’s delivery of essential services "to make sure we're taking the most efficient, cost-effective approach."
"In the end," he said, "our decisions should always reflect a fundamental truth: We work for the people, not the other way around."
Democrats reponding to the speech said Perry and other Republican leaders are out of touch with the severity of the state's budget problems.
"Governor Perry has been waking up in a different reality than most citizens of Texas," said state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. "Their reality is becoming starker by the day. In the reality of Texas families, schools are closing, teachers are losing their jobs and state support for public eduction, already among the lowest in the entire nation, is facing dramatic cuts."
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