By Monica Roberts
It’s now been several weeks since that historic election, the one that made me the first Black female governor of the Lone Star State. It also makes me the first Democratic governor since Ann Richards held the office from 1991 to 1995.
The shock of election night has since worn off. The election is certified, the interviews are done, and I spend the run-up to Inauguration Day learning the nuts and bolts of the position. I must be prepared to govern the second largest state in the nation.
It becomes real in January 2019, when I take the oath of office to become the 49th governor of the Lone Star State. I float between the inauguration balls and parties happening all across Austin.
As the first elected Black governor of my home state, a lot of expectations are upon me. I have to be better than all of the white folks who preceded me in this office in order to prove myself. I know that many Texans are counting on me to help overturn the worst of the state’s GOP policies and to live up to my campaign promise of creating a Texas government of which we can be proud.
I swing by the Texas Capitol rotunda to glance once more at Ann Richards’ governor’s portrait (a tradition of mine), before heading to my new home at the Governor’s Mansion. As I drift off to sleep, I contemplate my moves for the upcoming Texas Legislature session, as well as the next four years of my first term in office.
My first order of business is to send the unmistakable message that my administration embraces all Texans, not just a narrow slice of the Texas population.
I would call a press conference to send a message to Texas citizens that I will veto any legislation that attacks human rights and the dignity of Texans, and that I will not waste precious time and taxes on any such legislation.
That press conference would also lay out my legislative agenda, reinforcing my commitment to a comprehensive human rights bill for the state that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, convicted felons, veterans, and genetic information as protected categories in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.
My administration appointments would also reflect this commitment. They would not only look like the diverse residents of the Lone Star State (as well as include people from the Texas LGBTQ community), but I would staff those boards, cabinet positions, and agencies with the best and brightest of our state.
The budget I would present to the Texas Legislature would make education a top priority, increasing funding for public education. Bettering our education system is crucial if we wish to attract and keep high tech and other major companies here in the state.
I would push for less high–stakes testing, more science and facts–based education. There will be no more alternative facts in Texas textbooks. I want to start returning the funding cuts to public education that the Republicans shortsightedly made, increasing funding for special education, encouraging school districts to bring back vocational education classes for the kids who aren’t college bound, and opposing any state money going to private or charter schools. I’d even consider tapping the Texas Rainy Day Fund to restore some of those misguided GOP education funding cuts.
For higher education, I’d push to open the Permanent University Fund money that currently only goes to the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and Prairie View to be shared with all state universities. Then, I would investigate making the undergrad years of college education free for Texas residents and free at community colleges.
I’d also push to have the state minimum wage raised to $12 for starters, then raised to $15 within two years.
A major component of my successful campaign was infrastructure. One of the projects I’d see to during my first term is construction on the Coastal Spine across Galveston Bay to better address the threat of hurricane storm surge flooding. If a hurricane makes landfall in just the right spot in Galveston, a storm surge would barrel through Galveston Bay and up the Houston Ship Channel, knocking the refineries that line its banks offline. As a result, the Houston economy would be crippled for months after the storm. It’s a real concern that must be considered, and the Coastal Spine flood gates are part of the solution.
As a part of my infrastructure improvement program, I’d also want to build on the private Texas Central Railway effort to build a Japanese Shinkansen–style bullet train between Houston and Dallas. I’d build one with an eye toward lines from Dallas to San Antonio, with stops in Fort Worth, Killeen, and Austin before terminating in San Antonio and connecting with the Dallas-Houston line. I’d also investigate building that San Antonio-Houston bullet train with a stop in Katy, with plans for an eventual extension from Houston to New Orleans.
Road maintenance, especially on the critical interstate highways that cross our state, would get additional funding. I’d also be fighting for Texas cities to get their fair share of federal money to not only fund that highway construction, but to build light rail and commuter rail projects. Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are growing exponentially and it is past time that public transit receives more attention in the Lone Star State as a way to deal with our increasing metropolitan traffic congestion.
I’d also push to have recreational marijuana sales and casino gambling legalized in the state to generate the new tax revenue streams needed for financing the programs I have proposed.
And finally, being Texas governor means that you have to use the bully pulpit of the office effectively to promote the state. In my eyes, that hasn’t happened effectively since Ann Richards was in the Governor’s Mansion, and the rising anti-Texas sentiment across the nation bears witness to that.
Now all I need is a good fundraiser, a solid campaign chair, an army of volunteers, and a leased bus to get this campaign jump–started.
The last day to register to vote in the Texas primaries is February 5, 2018. Early voting runs from February 20-March 2, 2018. Election Day is Tuesday, March 6, 2018. For Harris County early voting locations, click here. To find your Harris County Election Day polling location, click here.
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