WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Incoming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick vowed Thursday to make good on an ultra-conservative agenda that helped steamroll Republicans to electoral victories, saying “the people of Texas know what they want the Legislature to do.”
The tea party favorite, who will oversee the state Senate, pledged hefty property and business tax cuts, as well pushing to scrap a popular 2001 Texas law offering in-state university tuition to the children of people who came to the U.S. illegally.
“It’s a question of fairness to American citizens,” Patrick said at a news conference in the Texas Capitol.
Republican Gov.-elect Greg Abbott was far less confrontational while listing his legislative priorities at a nearby conservative gathering, sticking to campaign vows such as building roads and reducing business regulations.
It was in stark contrast to Patrick, who even said he’d leave out funding in the next budget for the state public integrity unit, which investigates wrongdoing by elected officials.
That’s the unit for which outgoing Gov. Rick Perry faces two felony counts for abuse of power after he publicly threatened and then carried out a veto of $7.5 million in state funding in 2013. That followed the unit’s Democratic head refusing to resign in the wake of her conviction and jail sentence for drunken driving. Patrick instead suggested a special prosecutor in new Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.
Patrick’s pull-no-punches approach is already leaving outnumbered Democrats feeling even more marginalized ahead of the new session, which convenes Tuesday.
Sen. Kirk Watson, the head of the Senate Democratic Caucus who was called to testify before the grand jury that indicted Perry, said Thursday he hopes the GOP will see beyond party affiliation, so that “the tone won’t be set that we can just pass whatever we want.”
But Patrick used the same rhetoric from the GOP primary, in which he decried an illegal “invasion” of immigrants and ousted longtime incumbent David Dewhurst.
Patrick said Thursday he would fight to keep the National Guard’s border presence — which Perry boosted by 1,000 troops over the summer amid an influx of unaccompanied children and families — funded until 2017. It currently ends in March.
He also said it won’t deter his tax cut plans — even amid plummeting oil prices that could hurt state coffers.
“The best way in a downturn to keep your economy rolling is to put more money in the people’s pockets,” Patrick said.
Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.