AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who spent his first months on the job dismantling legacies of Rick Perry, revealed Wednesday he is reviving a famous hallmark of his predecessor: traveling the U.S. and world to recruit businesses to Texas.
Doing so gives Abbott the chance to raise his national political profile after taking office in January and immediately presiding over the Legislature, which adjourned this week until 2017 after delivering on his orders to cut taxes and boost border security spending.
Abbott wouldn’t reveal his first destinations but said he would go only where there’s a deal to make.
“We are not going to go wandering around, just hoping that we find gold,” Abbott said.
In a wide-ranging interview with reporters outside his office in the Texas Capitol, Abbott also defended legalizing guns on college campuses and withheld judgment on whether oil and gas wells are to blame for earthquakes in North Texas.
Perry, who is expected to formally announce a second run for the White House on Thursday, spent years using economic development trips to promote the Texas economy and his own political ambitions. He cast himself as a boardroom deal-closer who kept the “Texas Miracle” economy humming by poaching frustrated companies from overbearing states.
Critics question how much credit Perry’s trips deserve: One of the last deals was giving Toyota $40 million in taxpayer funds to leave California in 2014, but executives of the automaker have cited being closer to their manufacturing base in the South as a primary factor.
Abbott will continue to use hundreds of millions of state dollars in the Texas Enterprise Fund, which Perry started, as bait for businesses. But other economic programs founded under Perry haven’t survived, such as a maligned program Abbott scratched that gave $200 million to risky startups.
Abbott’s post-session takes also included:
Abbott said academic leaders who urged the Legislature not to let guns in college classrooms — including new University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, the former Navy SEAL who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — have nothing to worry about.
“There hasn’t been any outbreak of shootings take place in Colorado on college campuses because they have campus carry,” Abbott said. “The hand-wringing going on about this right now is identical to the hand-wringing that went on when concealed carry passed.”
As small earthquakes continue to rumble North Texas, Abbott said he is waiting on research from state officials before making pronouncements about the impact of oil and gas wells. Oklahoma officials embraced research in April that showed wastewater wells were likely causing earthquakes there.
“I think it’s important that we make our decision based upon science. So I want to see the Railroad Commission and the state of Texas advance as quickly as possible to find out of there is a scientific cause-and-effect relationship,” Abbott said.
Abbott said has met with federal health officials to discuss Medicaid expansion but gave no indication that a breakthrough was ahead in the long standoff between Texas and the Obama administration.
“They would like to find a way that Texas would be able to expand Medicaid, and I made clear where Texas stood with regard to expansion of Obamacare,” Abbott said.
Abbott would not discuss the future of Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek, whose agency has spent months embroiled in a contracting scandal that is the target of criminal investigations. He said he would evaluate leadership at all agencies this summer.