Texas remains the envy of the nation, which is why 15 million people will move here in the next 25 years, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Thursday in Waco. That influx will also pressure the state to improve its highways and education system and protect its border with Mexico while maintaining a balanced budget, possibly even enjoying a surplus as it does now.
Giving a “State of the State” talk to local business and community leaders at McLane Stadium’s Baylor Club, Patrick said Texas has the 12th-largest economy in the world and “for the United States to be strong, Texas must be strong” and remain an example of how to create jobs by fostering a pro-business atmosphere.
“There is not another Texas to move to when things go wrong in the other 49 states,” the Houston Republican said. “People moving here see Texas as what they always thought this country should be, a place with low taxes and tort reform that protects business from devastating lawsuits. Most were taxed out of the place they came from.”
He said the state’s population grew from 18 million in 2000 to 27 million today and will reach 42 million by 2040.
“That growth brings tremendous challenge but also opportunity,” said Patrick, adding the state’s leaders have no time to dawdle in preparing for the flood of new arrivals. “The Texas Legislature will have 24 months to act, considering it meets for two months every two years.”
The 84th Texas Legislature passed several pieces of legislation that Patrick lauded Thursday. It earmarked $2.5 billion for highway improvements and construction, increased the homestead exemption on property taxes from $15,000 to $25,000 and set aside $800 million to improve border security.
Increased border funds will allow the state to add two hours to the eight-hour day of every Department of Public Safety trooper, which is equivalent to hiring 600 officers, Patrick said. It makes funds immediately available to Gov. Greg Abbott for ordering National Guard troops to the border whenever he sees fit, without scrounging around for money from other sources as governors have had to do in the past. It will also fund technological improvements to track people trying to enter Texas illegally.
Patrick, during an interview after his talk, said border agents now have access to a second plane “that can spot the watch on your arm.”
He said he also is pleased the Legislature acted to cut by 25 percent the business franchise tax, which is sometimes called the margins tax. Companies with revenue above $1 million pay the tax on gross receipts, leading to some paying it when they make little or no profit, Patrick said.