As Rick Perry prepares himself for another presidential campaign, the media will undoubtedly be discussing his blunders last time around. Opportunity Lives has commented on those too, but let’s take a look at former Gov. Perry’s “Top 5 accomplishments.”
In a country still recovering from a recession, Rick Perry’s top accomplishment is without a doubt the Texas economy. Texas alone generated more than a third of the nation’s private-sector jobs since 2001, according to the Associated Press. “The other 49 states and the District of Columbia together employ about 275,000 fewer Americans than at the start of the recession seven years ago, while the Lone Star State has added more than 1.25 million payroll jobs,” said Mark Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
The last few years have been particularly strong for Texas. In calendar year 2013, Texas grew twice as fast as the country as a whole. Last month, Texas added more than 4 jobs every minute. When Forbes recently ranked the “best cities for good jobs,” 5 of the top 6 cities were in Texas.
Currently at 4.6 percent, the unemployment rate in Texas has been below the national rate for 96 consecutive months.
2. Making Texas the best state for business
The Lone Star State is a good place for businesses too, ranked by Forbes as the #1 state for “economic climate” and “growth prospects.” Last year, CNBC ranked Texas as the second best state to do business (in the 8-year history of the rankings, Texas has always been first or second).
The state’s infrastructure and growing economy are major magnets for large companies looking to relocate their headquarters, as several have done recently, and 52 Fortune 500 companies already have their headquarters in Texas. The absence of a state corporate income tax and individual income tax also make Texas an attractive place for business growth.
Texas is also the most important energy-producing state, pumping out more than a third of the nation’s crude oil. If Texas were its own country (likely the hope of more than a few Texans), it would be the sixth-largest oil producer in the world.
3. Blocking federal overreach
Perry has gained credibility in conservative circles by continuously opposing federal policy mandates, pointing instead to the success Texas has enjoyed without help from Washington.
On healthcare, Perry opposed the optional Medicaid expansion that came with the Affordable Care Act. “Another consequence of Obamacare is the effort to cram more people into an already broken and costly Medicaid system without any reforms,” he said in an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News. Though he is still criticized for “leaving money on the table,” Perry argues that the federal government will eventually stop paying what they’ve promised for Medicaid, leaving states to foot the massive bill in the future.
In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2010, Perry also opposed “national curriculum standards” being pushed by “unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups” when he chose not to apply for federal Race to the Top funds. “I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national curriculum standards and tests,” he said.
Immigration is another important issue for Texas, and Rick Perry is no stranger to its challenges. He is a fierce advocate of securing the border and has warned that the state may sue the federal government over extending citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.
4. Enacting statewide pro-life legislation
The summer of 2013 was a tense time in Texas politics as H.B. 2, a sweeping pro-life law that banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, was debated in the legislature. Despite a filibuster by state Senator Wendy Davis that garnered national attention, the bill was passed and signed into law by Rick Perry in July 2013.
Perry is unapologetically pro-life, also signing bills in his time as governor that prohibited taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood and required minors to get parental approval before an abortion.
5. Championing criminal justice reform
Criminal justice reform is an issue that has recently been attracting an unlikely set of proponents, from liberal activists to the Koch brothers to Sen. Rand Paul. Rick Perry has the experience and credibility of carrying out successful, common-sense reforms in Texas.
Texas, one of the leading death-penalty states, is undoubtedly tough on crime. But that toughness has been tempered by many important reforms during Perry’s tenure as governor. Several new laws have relaxed penalties on small-time drug offenders and created alternative treatment or probation programs, saving billions of dollars on extra prison beds while reducing crime rates across the board.
The state, led by Perry, has also been a leader in juvenile justice reform, substantially reducing juvenile crime while halving the youth population of state institutions in the last eight years. The Right on Crime project said of Texas: “While Texas still has the nation’s fourth highest adult incarceration rate, an increased emphasis on policies that are both tough and smart has enabled the state to turn the tide and reduce crime while controlling costs to taxpayers. ”