State Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland praised the real estate profession as a reflection of the Texas economy and encouraged businessmen and women to continue offering feedback to lawmakers during remarks at Friday’s luncheon of the Brownwood Board of Realtors.
“Your profession is the economy of our state,” Keffer said before offering a recap of legislation passed by the 80th Texas Legislature before it adjourned in May.
“I really think we did some good things,” Keffer said. “For one thing, we didn’t spend all the money we had for the first time in history.”
Keffer said the Texas economy remains No. 1 in the country among other states, and that if Texas was a nation, it would have the eighth largest gross national product in the world, based on sales taxes, employment rates and other criteria.
“We’re real proud we’ve been able to create a business-friendly state, and we need to keep doing that to maintain our economy,” Keffer said.
One measure of the health of the Texas economy is that the legislature’s “rainy day fund,” funded by oil and and severance taxes, has grown from $100,000 after it was needed to fund state operations four years ago to the current $4.5 billion.
“That is sort of a picture of our economy,” Keffer said. “That’s $9 billion that is being held back for the future.”
Meanwhile, the legislature left on the table another $4.5 billion in revenues that were available for use in the last session, earmarking those funds for future school district property tax reductions.
“We are accomplishing a property tax reduction,” Keffer said. “I expect there will be even more reductions during the 81st Legislature.”
In the coming year, Texans will see a 33-cent reduction in school property taxes after a 17-cent cut last year, “as we try to work down that onerous tax.”
Keffer listed several other measures in which he said he takes pride, including funding that will add 180,000 children back into the CHIPS insurance program.
“For every dollar we put in, we get $2.60 in federal matching funds, and this is not Medicare and Medicaid,” Keffer said.
Keffer also encouraged voters to support Proposition 15 on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Approval of the constitutional amendment would allocate $3 billion for the state to use to issue over 10 years for cancer research.
“The people who are doing the research and who now say they feel we are very close to a cure for lung cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer,” Keffer said. “The feel a cure for these three particular is certainly possible… It’s something I hope the people of Texas will pass.”
On border security, Keffer said Texas is doing all any state can do, and much of the expense is coming as a result of increasing trade resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“The traffic’s there, the traffic’s going to get worse, and as far behind as we are and as costly as highway construction is, toll roads and private parties are going to have to be in the mix.”
However, he said the legislature was wise to pass a two-year moratorium on new construction after the surprises that came to light regarding contracts and imminent domain.
Keffer also addressed his candidacy for speaker of the house.
“I do have my hat in the ring for speaker, and it’s nothing personal about the man now in the office,” Keffer said. “I just feel that the House needs a different direction.”
His first priority, however, will be to win reelection to his District 60 seat in November 2008.
“Then you work with the members to become speaker of the house.”