Gov. Abbott Proposes Sweeping Agenda

Abbott wants increased pre-K funding on legislative fast track

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Gov. Greg Abbott, delivering his first major policy address to the Texas Legislature Tuesday, laid out an ambitious agenda for the next two years, including an expansion of pre-kindergarten, massive tax cuts and roads as far as the traffic-glazed eye can see.
It was a something-for-everyone speech, hitting on all the major initiatives he laid out in the 2014 governor’s race and then some.
“Our fellow Texans face many challenges: the need for better schools, more roads, for border security, better health care, more jobs. They want more liberty and less government, and they deserve ethics reforms,” Abbott said. “We can not let their future be defined by these challenges. Instead it is our responsibility to work together to respond to these challenges.”
Abbott also unveiled the five “emergency” items he wants to put on the legislative fast track. The designation signifies what Abbott considers to be his top priorities and it also means they can be considered immediately, rather than later in the session like everything else. It was no surprise that border security and transportation would be on the list, but Abbott also included pre-K programs and higher education research funding on the list.
Presiding over a state with a surplus in excess of $7 billion, Abbott said he could increase funding for pre-K programs, build $4 billion worth of new roads and make higher education more affordable at the same time he cuts taxes by more than $4 billion.
The governor detoured carefully around the hot-button issue of using tax dollars for private-school vouchers. He promised to promote school “choice” and hailed the open-enrollment approach in Grand Prairie, where children who live outside the school district are allowed to attend the public schools. "When parents have more options, students win," he said.
But he never use the V-word, which divides Republicans. 
“He did not mention vouchers, but he did talk about parents having options. If you have children trapped in failing schools in inner-cities and large districts, I too support parents having choice,” said state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. But Otto, who represents a largely rural part of Southeast Texas, said he would oppose a "one-size-fits-all" mandate because that would offer "no choice." 
On property tax cuts, Abbott promised to provide state money to school districts to make up for lost revenue. He specifically mentioned state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, in that part of the speech, but afterward Howard said she was confused about it and didn’t exactly salute the initiative.
“If properties values increase, rather than just giving the state that to use it on whatever they want to use it, it needs to go back into public education," said Howard, a former school board member. "I don't know what he is trying to suggest. I think he's endorsing the concept, but it's the way you implement it that we may have to have some discussion about.”


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