and to waste opportunity and time. What we desperately need and have more to offer, we desperately need the investment. We have more to offer at this time than any other state in the nation. Can we return to tax abatement? You know, a few sessions ago Hugo Berglanga sponsored an initiative that failed. This time we’ve got it on the list of amendments and it passed. Isn’t that shifting the tax burden to, I’ve heard from local taxing entities Yeah, I don’t, I think tax abatement has to be very, very carefully utilized. And it’s something that, you know, “I’m paying my taxes, why doesn’t everybody else pay theirs?” Why does somebody get an advantage over the guy that’s sittin’ there to the extent that they burden the infrastructure by the new investment. Then you, in a sense, have created a bigger burden for the guy that’s been footin’ the bill all along. There’s some ways to use it. It can be helpful. It seems that you agree that the tax system, in terms of funding education, is inequitable in this state . . . would you be in favor of consolidation of the tax base in a countywide basis? That’s something that I think would guess would be one of the first things looked at and addressed. But to the extent that you have, you’ve got bonds that are outstanding, I mean you’ve got a lot of complexities associated with that before you jump in to it. I think you have to address those complexities first. There might be better ways of solving the problem. Let me ask here about the consolidation of school districts? That’s always the cry that goes up. But I think that we waste a lot of time on doing that. Everybody wants to have some control over their school districts. And I don’t think we ought to take that away. The point is, the state ought to come in and help build those school districts to a point that they’d be proud of what they’re controlling. A longer school year? Oh, of course! We’ve got to better utilize the assets and fixed assets we have out there. And this is another way in which we justify higher teacher salaries. And open enrollment. In other words, any kid can go to any school district? Let me stop here for a minute. I’ve heard those proposals about let’s give them a coupon and let them go to any school they choose. What if they all chose the same school? Now you’ve answered the question. Let me ask another question? At a recent TSTA [Texas State Teacher Association] con vention the old issue of testing teachers came up. One TSTA official said that any governor, any candidate, who would propose or has proposed testing teachers shouldn’t be running. Now, we know where that comes from, the TECAT, it comes out of H.B. 72. How do you see, have you mended fences with teachers or I’m going to go talk to them this afternoon. I’ve been talking to them for a long time. But let me just say that the last significant infusion of new money into education came when I was governor. Part of the trade for that was that the Legislature demanded a test for teachers. I thought it was a fair trade. I knew that teachers would pass the test. I had more confidence in them than I guess many of them had in themselves. I understand the intense pressure that they went through. It was agonizing. Many of them thought that “Let me have the fact that we don’t have an income tax and I’ll have people beatin’ a path to Texas with their jobs to locate here…” they were going to lose their jobs over it. I lost mine. If you had to do it over again, how would YOU do it? Oh, I think that there were more sophisticated ways it could have been dealt with. Anybody that teaches, anybody that had taken a Graduate Record Exam, anybody that had passed certain of the uniform tests, should have been exempted from those tests. That would have been a much better way to have dealt with it, looking back on it. Anybody who hadn’t taken any significant tests over time should have been able to qualify through some sort of appraisal system, possibly, even though appraisals are very difficult. But that’s water under the bridge. That’ll never happen again. We set in motion, oh, new standards for incoming teachers. We will never have to test those teachers. It’s being done at the university level through programs But the shame of it all was that once upon a time it wasn’t. You know, and that’s the shame of it all. We’ve strengthened our system dramatically. It was torturous in many ways. It was painful to me as well. I don’t know of anybody who was more pained by it, possibly. But, I willingly take the pain for the advancements that we’ve made. Every day, when I see kids makin’ better grades on tests, I thank the teachers. They’re the ones who did that. The teachers did it. But I’m delighted. It makes it all worthwhile. There’s always going to be an anti-crime campaign, particularly the Republican campaign once we get past the primary. Recently, well last week, NPR did a series on gun control. The gun laws in Texas, around the nation they cited Texas’s gun laws as being lax and the easy access to guns here as being a problem even spilling over into states like New York, from whence people come to acquire guns in Texas. Would you support tighter restrictions on gun ownership, stronger gun control laws? I have a better plan. I think it’s a better plan in neighborhood security. We’re not doing what we need to do in law enforcement. Government’s first responsibility is to maintain the lives and property of its people. You think we’re doing a good job? I think we’re failing at that level. Because we haven’t put the resources into the job or at the right place. And I think for that reason, the campaign we’re going to be talking about in the weeks and months ahead will distinctly point out changes that need to be made to protect the lives and property of our people. And also, in a great measure, to displace the drug problem that we face today in our schools and our neighborhoods. I hear all these people and I almost laugh at what they say about drugs and crime. Some of it, sure anybody could figure it out. The birds in the trees could figure it out. You need better education. You need more drug rehab. You need stronger laws where necessary. We’ve got pretty strong laws. Right now we’ve got the death penalty. And in my administration we carried it out. The difference is, we’re not deploying our resources very well. We’re not putting, you know, we’re fightin’ a war on drugs and we haven’t even called out the infantry. You mention the death penalty. If my figures are correct there were 17 executions during your tenure? I would think that it’s even higher than that. In the 20s, I think. Recently, we have had We had four in the last four years here. So you support it, you support the I do support the death penalty, as a, not as a great deterrent to crime. I really don’t know that it is a great deterrent to crime. I think the death penalty, in the circumstances we have it here in Texas is an appropriate punishment for the offense that was committed. I thoroughly reviewed each and every one of the THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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