**Governor Abbott often deviates from prepared remarks**
Good evening to members of the Texas Legislature, members of the Texas Supreme Court, state officials, and to my fellow Texans. As we gather tonight in San Marcos, the state of our state has never been more exceptional.
Texans have inherited a legendary pedigree. A state first settled by brave pioneers willing to risk everything for the promise of freedom and opportunity. Texas is fulfilling that promise.
I’m speaking to you from the manufacturing floor of Noveon. It is a cutting-edge business in the critical field of rare earth elements. They provide essential materials for things used every day like refrigerators, trucks, MRI machines, oil rigs. Even materials for ballistic missiles for America to defend itself.
Most rare earth materials now come from China. If that supply is ever disrupted, many of the things we do every day would come to a halt. The future of Texas and the United States should not depend on China. We must embrace innovation like Noveon to make Texas more self-reliant to create our own products and to secure the Texas of tomorrow.
With the help of businesses like Noveon, Texas is number one in the United States for new jobs. In fact, since I became Governor, Texas has added more than 1.9 million new jobs. We’re also number one for economic development, number one for exports, and number one for Fortune 500 headquarters.
Our $2 trillion economy makes Texas the ninth-largest economy in the world.
All across our state business is booming. From our large metros to rural Texas and everywhere in between, businesses large and small have led Texas to be ranked the number one state for business every year that I’ve been Governor.
That success has been driven by hardworking Texans. It has been aided by strategic economic development tools. To keep Texas the best state for business, our local communities need new economic development tools this session. And local businesses will flourish even more if we reduce the gridlock in our courts by creating specialized courts with the expertise to deal with complex commercial litigation.
One thing that the Texas of tomorrow needs is a highly skilled workforce. I was at Odessa College two weeks ago with Senator Sparks and Representative Landgraff to see firsthand how community colleges are training the workforce of tomorrow.
I met Ariel Aguilar, a young graduate who was so grateful for the program. We’re proud to have him here tonight. Instead of studying subjects irrelevant to his career, the job skill program gave him the ability to study what he needed. It also quickly landed him a good-paying career.
Our goal is to ensure that every Texan is prepared to succeed in high-demand industries like, technology, healthcare, and energy. That’s why this session we will reward community colleges that produce skilled, employable Texans.
As I travel across Texas, there’s one thing I hear loud and clear: Property taxes are suffocating Texans. We must fix that this session.
Hardworking Texans produced the largest budget surplus in Texas history. That money belongs to the taxpayers. We should return it to you with the largest property tax cut in the history of Texas.
Working with Senator Huffman and Representative Bonnen, we have all proposed using $15 billion to cut property taxes. Now we must ensure that it provides lasting property tax relief. To get that done, cutting property taxes will be an emergency item this session.
Our booming economy and growing population means we must bolster our infrastructure. We began preparing for this over the past decade. Tonight, I’m proud to tell you we will soon announce a $100 billion plan to build transportation infrastructure in Texas. I want to thank Senator Nichols and Representative Canales for their leadership on this issue.
Also, we already passed 14 bipartisan laws that strengthened the power grid. Since then, no Texan has lost power because of the state grid.
But we all know that increased demand will be placed on the grid as Texas continues to grow. So, we will build a grid strong enough to power Texas for the next century. In fact, in just the last month, multiple electric generation projects have been announced, adding reliable power to our grid.
People have been coming to Texas in search of liberty for almost 200 years. We must protect that liberty.
That’s why I’m announcing an emergency item to end COVID restrictions forever. We must prohibit any government from imposing COVID mask mandates, COVID vaccine mandates, and from closing any business or school because of COVID. These actions will help Texas close the door on COVID restrictions. Also, we must change how government responds to future pandemics, including requiring the legislature to convene if another pandemic is ever declared.
We must also protect the freedom and rights of parents who have children in school.
Public schools play an essential role in our state. They educate our future entrepreneurs, scientists, and leaders. We must ensure that our education system works for every child. Thanks to legislators, per-student funding is at an all-time high. We’ve provided more funding for public education and more funding for teacher pay raises than ever in the history of our state. And this session, we’ll do even more.
Many public schools in Texas are excellent. In fact, we are number one for National Blue Ribbon Schools, and we have one of the best high school graduation rates in America.
When I grew up in Longview and Duncanville, we were taught the basics — reading, writing, math, and science. We were inspired by our country’s founding and how it stands apart from the rest of the world as the beacon of liberty and opportunity.
Many children today are not educated like you and I were. I hear frustrations from many parents — some are with us here tonight.
The Aly Family grew frustrated watching their child fall behind because she was forced to learn from home.
Eric Richerson was astonished that his child’s teacher would not work with him to address the specific needs of his child.
Hillary Hickland was angry to learn that a woke agenda was being forced on her daughter in school.
Let’s be clear: Schools are for education, not indoctrination. Schools should not push woke agendas. Period.
We must reform curriculum, get kids back to the basics of learning, and we must empower parents. Parents deserve access to curriculum, school libraries, and what their children are taught. We will do that with our Parental Bill of Rights.
Parents also deserve education freedom. Without it, some parents are hindered in helping their child succeed. That must change this year.
The way to do that is with school choice through state-funded Education Savings Accounts. We’ve seen them work in other states — and here in Texas. I created Education Savings Accounts for special needs students. It worked so well that a bipartisan super-majority passed it into law and now wants to increase funding for it. Now, it’s time to provide every parent with the ability to choose the best education option for their child.
To be clear, under this school choice program, all public schools will be fully funded for every student. This is so vital to the future of our state that I am making education freedom an emergency item this session.
Children must also have safe schools. We must establish the safest standards, and then use the newly created Chief of School Safety to mandate compliance with those standards, and we must provide more mental health professionals in our schools.
We cannot let another school year go by without making our schools safer. That is why I am making school safety an emergency item this session.
In addition to protecting our children in schools, we must also help our seniors in nursing homes by providing a pay increase for those who care for them.
One of the most dangerous places is one you would least expect: a courtroom where activist judges are using low bail to let dangerous criminals back on the streets.
Last September, a law enforcement officer in Harris County was murdered by a criminal let out on bail from a prior murder charge.
Harris County’s revolving door bail practice is literally killing people. In just two years, more than 100 people were murdered in Houston by criminals who were let out on multiple felony bonds.
We did a lot last session with Senator Huffman and Representatives Murr and Smith to impose tougher bail, but this session we must shut and lock that revolving door by passing laws that keep dangerous criminals behind bars and hold accountable the judges who let them out.
To get that done, I am making ending revolving door bail an emergency item this session.
Another public safety issue is gun crime. Some want more gun laws, but too many local officials won’t even enforce the gun laws that are already on the books. Most gun crimes are committed by criminals who possess guns illegally. We need to leave prosecutors and judges with no choice but to punish those criminals and remove them and their guns from our streets.
I want a mandatory minimum sentence for criminals who illegally possess guns of 10 years behind bars.
Guns, drugs, cartel gangs. All kinds of illegal activities are assailing our border, all while Washington has abandoned its duty.
Texans are furious about the lawlessness caused by Biden’s open border policies, and they should be.
During the prior administration, we had the lowest illegal crossings in decades, but this past year, the United States set a record for the most illegal crossings ever.
Working with Speaker Phelan and Lieutenant Governor Patrick, Texas has done more than any state ever to secure our border. We deployed the National Guard to turn back illegal immigrants. DPS has arrested more than 24,000 criminals and seized enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in the United States.
I also designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. To relieve border communities from overcrowded conditions, I bussed migrants to sanctuary cities in other states, and Texas is the only state in the history of America to build its own border wall.
To coordinate these efforts, I hired a former Border Patrol leader named Mike Banks to be the first Texas Border Czar. Texans should be proud of their National Guard soldiers and DPS troopers who are working around the clock under the leadership of Major General Suelzer and Colonel McCraw.
Let’s also thank our Texas sheriffs, who are on the frontline battling Biden’s border crisis. Members of the National Border Patrol Council, including their president, Brandon Judd, work with us every day — and they join us here tonight.
We know that more must be done. That’s why the House and Senate are proposing another $4.6 billion to strengthen our border security efforts.
But know this: Illegal smuggling is being aided and abetted by U.S. residents. That must stop. We must impose a mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least 10 years for anyone caught smuggling illegal immigrants in Texas.
Doing more to secure our border is an emergency item this session. I look forward to working with Senator Birdwell and Representative Guillen to get this done.
Our porous border has tragic side effects. Fentanyl poisoning has now become the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. This travesty must end.
I’ve met Texans whose families were ripped apart by fentanyl. With us here tonight is Veronica Kaprosy from San Antonio. Last year, she told me about her daughter, Danica, a bright, young woman lost in her prime because she took a pill not knowing that it was laced with fentanyl. The story of Danica, and too many others, inspired us to start the #OnePillKills awareness campaign.
Mexican drug cartels make fentanyl look like legitimate medicine — even candy. But that one pill can kill.
To end cartel killings of Texans, we must do two things: call fentanyl deaths what they are — poisonings — and prosecute them as murders. We must also increase the supply of lifesaving NARCAN, so we can save more Texans who are ambushed by fentanyl.
Addressing the fentanyl crisis is an emergency item this session.
No doubt we have work ahead of us, but we’re building on a storied legacy. One hundred and eighty-seven years after Texas was founded, it has never been a better time to be a Texan.
Texas is America’s economic juggernaut: Where a small family business can aspire to employ hundreds and become leaders in their local community; where all Texans can chart their own destiny.
Texas is the seat of knowledge, where children will have safer schools to master the skills that will prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow.
Texas is the energy capital of the world, where we will strengthen our electric grid to power us for generations to come.
Texas is the home of justice, where dangerous criminals will stay locked behind bars, and law-abiding Texans will have their liberty protected.
This session, we will ensure Texas remains the leader of this nation as an unflinching force in this world. Together, we will build a Texas for the next generation — the Texas of tomorrow.
The First Lady Cecilia Abbott joins me in saying thank you to our fellow Texans.
We pray that God blesses you and that God will forever bless the great State of Texas.