When Texas Governor Rick Perry took office back in 2000, many did not expect much from him. As a matter of fact, some felt that he had only managed to find himself in the governor’s seat after switching parties, sliding into the position of agriculture commissioner, and becoming lieutenant-governor, and all with the help of such names as Karl Rove and George W. Bush backing him. In the Summer of 2013, however, Perry had served as governor longer than any other in Texas. It was then that he announced that, after his 14 year stay in the governor’s mansion, he would not be running again. He did not leave the office in the shame of being defeated, but by his own choice. But what will we remember about Rick Perry in years to come?
Rise to Power, Rise of State
Perry’s rise to power was indeed, on the coattails of George W. Bush. As soon as he was in the governor’s chair, however, he began to work to make improvements to his state. Texas Governor Rick Perry rose to the throne as governor when his predecessor, George W. Bush left office to prepare for his own run as President of the United States. Even before Perry was re-elected in 2010, he had already served longer than any other Texas governor.
In his time in office, Perry has left behind a legacy worth bragging about. As a matter of fact, the improvements of the state have been so vast since Perry took office, that it has become known as the “Texas Miracle.” While the census from 2000 showed that Texas boasted of a total of twenty-one million people, there were over twenty-six million by 2012, and many of these were apparently contributing citizens. Median household income grew from forty thousand a year to fifty-one thousand, and the state’s unemployment rate has been under that of the national average every single month for over half a decade. The state of Texas has lead the nation in job creation under Rick Perry’s governing, by producing one third of the net new jobs in the United States. Texas has also become the largest exporting state in the last twelve years. While some argue that Perry cannot claim victory for all of these improvements, many say that he should for many reasons, including the fact that his pro-business policies work to bring in and keep businesses in the state.
Indictment on Felony Charges
In August, just as his role as Governor of Texas was coming to a peaceful, and legal close, Perry had to go and get himself indicted on not one, but two felony charges. Perry is accused of abusing his power as governor by trying to pressure a Democratic district attorney to step down or he would cut off financing to her office. This gives Perry yet another record to be remembered by, although not really a good one. He is the first Texas Governor in almost a century to face criminal charges. These new developments, of course, put a cog in the gears of the presidential race that Perry may have stepped down to run.
According to the reports, Perry used his veto power as governor as leverage to persuade an elected official Rosemary Lehmberg, to step down from office after she was arrested and charged with Drinking and Driving. As the New York Times explains, “Ms. Lehmberg is Austin’s top prosecutor and oversees a powerful public corruption unit that investigates state, local and federal officials; its work led to the 2005 indictment of a former Republican congressman, Tom DeLay, on charges of violating campaign finance laws. Following Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest, Mr. Perry and his aides threatened to veto $7.5 million in state funding for the public corruption unit in her office unless she resigned. The governor followed through on his threat, vetoing the money by stating that he could not support “continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence.”
He Goes Against the Grain
Perry has not always gone along with the most popular ideas when it came to politics and how he ran his state. As a matter of fact, he began his whole stint as governor with a very shocking first legislative session. It was then that he went completely against the grain and shocked the political world when he gave a record 83 vetoes. Governor Perry went on to end his career as governor with yet another rebellious act. Texas lawmakers are still currently in an uproar over Perry’s recent decision to tap into $38 million in unused funds from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Perry intends for these funds to be used to pay for the emergency deployment of Texas National Guard members to the Texas/Mexican border. Perry cited a provision which would allow him to tap into such funds in the case of emergency. According to the Texas Tribune, “Perry is citing a provision in the budget that allows him to tap unexpended funds for emergencies without using the more typical “execution authority” of the Legislative Budget Board, which has the power to move money between agencies when the Legislature is not in session.” Many feel that this sounds a lot like President Obama’s stance on his many executive orders. Good for the goose?
Of course, just like the Republicans protest Obama’s antics for getting his own way, many are protesting Governor Perry’s decisions. State Senator Kevin Eltife R-Tyler stated, “I understand and fully support the need for additional state resources to help secure the border. I would also prefer that the governor call a special legislative session so we can develop a comprehensive plan that not only deals with border security but also addresses the humanitarian side of the issue and impacts to local communities.”
House Speaker Joe Straus feels that a more transparent approach would have been in order. According to his spokesman, Jason Embry, “Speaker Straus is pleased that financial support for the beginning of this deployment has been identified, although he believes a more transparent approach would have been to use the Governor’s disaster funds, which Gov. Perry has previously used for border security.”
But Perry isn’t backing down. His spokesman, Felix Brown, stated, “Through his authority to access certain funds during an emergency, the governor has secured initial funding for the Texas National Guard for the first two-and-a-half to three months of operation. The governor will continue working with state leadership to secure additional funding from sources, including the governor’s authority to respond to emergencies and disasters and budget execution.”
Hope for Him Yet
Ironically, the recent controversy over Perry’s spending on border patrol seems to have actually helped his political career comeback from the indictments. So, there is good and bad to be considered when looking back over Rick Perry’s term in office. Perry is still considering a second run for President, and has been traveling to bring more attention to his political career as of late. Either way, the Great State of Texas is saying, “Goodbye” to its longest-serving governor.
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/us/a-governors-long-legacy-of-brashness-and-brawls.html
Texas Monthly http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/rick-perrys-long-goodbye
Express News http://www.expressnews.com/news/news_columnists/peggy_fikac/article/Gov-Perry-s-long-goodbye-5956864.php
Texas Tribune http://www.texastribune.org/2014/08/05/lawmakers-question-perrys-funding-guard-border/