Gov. Greg Abbott was sworn into office for a third term on Tuesday, reaffirming his campaign promises to cut property taxes and secure the US-Mexico border, statements closely linked to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Speaking at the joint inauguration ceremony at the Capitol, Abbott and Patrick primarily focused on the state’s economic health, which is better than ever since they took office together in 2015. lawmakers have an additional $33 billion to spend from the surplus in the latest budget cycle.
Patrick, who provided more details than Abbott about his legislative goals, said he wants to increase the state’s homestead tax exemption to $70,000 from $40,000, a more ambitious amount than he had previously proposed. He also doubled down on calls to help law enforcement in rural areas and threatened college professors who are committed to teaching critical race theory.
“I don’t want teachers in our colleges to say that America is evil, capitalism is bad, and socialism is better,” Patrick said. “If that means some of those professors who want to teach don’t want to come to Texas, I’m fine with that.”
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Patrick and Abbott have said they want to pass a school choice bill, and Abbott has vowed not to end the current legislative session without making schools safer, without elaborating.
“Parents need to know their kids are safe when they give them a lift every morning,” he said.
The ceremony, which brought together a large number of supporters on the north lawn of the Capitol, showed the unity between Abbott and Patrick at the beginning of the second week of the legislative session. The budget surplus is likely to dominate conversation until May, with lawmakers deciding how much of the $33 billion surplus to spend, how much to save, and how much goes to taxpayers.
After the inauguration, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, called on Abbott and Patrick to address rising prices for goods and services.
“Texan Republicans have controlled this state for almost 30 years, and 30 years later, the cost to Texas families has never been higher,” said Martinez Fischer, who chairs the Democratic House caucus. We must use this historic moment to correct the mistakes of the past 30 years. House Democrats will lead the way in spending cuts for Texans, and we will work with anyone willing to work with us to help Texans.”
The strength of the economy played a key role in Abbott fending off political attacks last year from pro-abortion rights Democrats who criticized him after he signed into law a near-abortion ban. Abbott, an avid fundraiser, toppled Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic rival for governor, by 12 percentage points as Republicans tightened their grip on the state’s top office even further. The last Democratic governor in the state was Ann Richards, who served one term from 1991 to 1995.
Patrick easily fended off a challenge from Democratic challenger Mike Collier by a margin similar to Abbott’s.
Since Abbott celebrated “three peats” on Tuesday for both him and Patrick, it remains to be seen if this will be the deadline for one or both.
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Abbott, as the top official in the largest Republican state, was seen as a potential candidate for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election. The 65-year-old governor had no intention of running, and he seems unlikely at this point as polls show him trailing former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Those close to Abbott expect him to go through a meeting that ends in May before making a decision.
Abbott, a former state attorney general, became governor in 2015 in a bid for the vacant seat in a victory over Democratic rival Wendy Davis. He replaced Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor of the state, having served in the post for 16 years. Thanks to his recent electoral victory, Abbott is close to serving 12 years, which would be second longest to Perry. There are no term limits for governors in Texas.
In addition to tax credits, Abbott said he wants to invest money in infrastructure such as roads, water, ports and the state’s power grid. These areas need to be addressed to support the state’s growing population, he said.
“People from all over America are fleeing the yoke of high taxes, bureaucracy, burdensome regulations in other states and moving to Texas, where freedom and wealth meet at every corner,” Abbott said.
Abbott, joined by his wife Cecilia and their daughter Audrey, took the oath of office from Nathan Hecht, Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.
Patrick, joined by his wife Jan and their two children, was sworn in by Ryan Patrick, his son, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
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Grammy-winning country music star Tanya Tucker sang the national anthem.