By Joe Straus
The November elections will help determine the priorities of the Texas House, but my colleagues and I already are hard at work on the opportunities and challenges facing our state.
Campaigns highlight the differences between candidates, as they should. When campaigns are over, voters will expect the candidates they supported to deliver results on the issues that impact their daily lives, such as the availability of good jobs and the quality of public education. They also expect state government to be efficient, transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
The Texas House is focused on these issues as we approach the next legislative session. For example, all House committees are studying ways to bring more manufacturing jobs to the state. Some of our top budget-writers are working to make our spending more transparent and straightforward. Members of the House are also talking to their colleagues and their constituents about improving education and securing reliable sources of water and electricity.
Some of our goals will not be easily reached. At a meeting last week, the staff of the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board gave us a sobering report about demands on our state budget. For example, our public school enrollment will grow by about 160,000 students over the next two years, and educating those students is projected to cost $2 billion. Population growth and health care inflation are also likely to increase the cost of Medicaid, a program largely controlled by the federal government.
In light of these demands, the House will work to find efficiencies in state government so we can properly fund our priorities at a price that taxpayers can afford. The House knows that throwing money at our problems does not equate to solving them.
Not only are the existing members of the House committed to finding solutions, but also we will benefit from the ideas and perspectives from the members who will join us in January for their first session. I have spent considerable time in recent weeks talking to the men and women who won their primaries and runoffs, and I’m quite impressed by what I’ve seen. Many of these candidates have a history of civic engagement, in both the private and public sectors. If they win in November, they will approach the state’s business with sincerity and purpose.
Voters will expect no less. As the start of our session approaches, the members of the Texas House and I will focus on policies and ideas that encourage economic growth, improve education and make government more transparent and efficient. Voters will make some choices this fall about whom they want to work on these issues, but the work itself has already begun.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus may be contacted through www.house.state.tx.us/members/speaker.