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  • Meagan Dorsch
    Director of Public Affairs
  • Jon Kuhl
    Public Affairs Specialist
    Washington, DC
Aug. 10, 2011

Perry promotes the power of the states

Texas governor tells legislative gathering that states need more freedom to pursue their own solutions.

SAN ANTONIO—Texas Governor Rick Perry brought his low-tax, reduced-regulation mantra to the NCSL crowd at its second general session of the Legislative Summit, proudly proclaiming his state’s job growth during a time of economic turmoil.

“Over the last two years, 40 percent of the net new jobs created in the United States were created in this state,” Perry said.

The current economic downturn has led to a vicious circle, Perry said, with many states relying on new revenue to pay for social programs, further depressing their economic base. “To pay for additional programs, government tends to raise taxes, borrow heavily, or in some cases both,” he said. “Those actions only serve to further depress job creation.”

Texas’ strategy has been to instead focus on reducing red tape and keep more money in the hands of small businesses owners. “The fact is, government doesn’t create jobs,” he said. “Otherwise, the last 2½ years of stimulus would have worked. Government can only create a business climate that allows the private sector to create jobs.” Because job creation benefits not just individual families but entire communities, it becomes a social program all its own.

Perry used the accomplishments of Texas to sound the familiar refrain that states are “individual laboratories of innovation,” given the opportunity to try new ideas. “What works in Virginia might work in Florida, and what works in Florida might work in Texas,” he said before detailing what was working in Texas.

States have lost some of that freedom to create their own policy solutions, however. “I know that the conventional wisdom of late basically has been top-down, that’s how the country works. It may be conventional wisdom, but it’s not wise. The bulk of the work gets done at the state level, or at least it should,” Perry said.

In some cases federal control causes active harm to states, the governor said, calling federal changes to Medicaid “the runaway entitlement train that explodes state budgets without giving states any local control.”

Perry also blasted the federal government in the wake of the nation’s first credit downgrade in history. Recurring budget deficits only delay the tax increases until the next generation and beyond. The downgrade by Standard & Poor’s “was the culmination of a reckless culture that has refused to confront spending in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

If anything, the recent debt ceiling compromise in Washington should have gone further—“You cannot say the spending cuts were too heavy,” he said. The twin accomplishments of Texas’ most recent legislative session, by his reckoning, were the state budget being cut by $15 billion and the passage of significant tort reform, bookends that will help benefit employers and spur job creation.

Before Perry took the stage, the gathered lawmakers and legislative staff gave a standing ovation to the four-person crew of the final space shuttle mission. As the federal government considers further spending cuts, Capt. Christopher Ferguson, the final shuttle mission’s commander, asked for help in reminding Americans’ of the value of NASA and space exploration. “We want to make sure we don’t lose interest” as a nation during this time of transition, Ferguson said.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.