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POLITICS: Campaigns

Greg Abbott says he'll fight to keep Texas budget small

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Politics,Associated Press,Texas,Campaigns

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott borrowed heavily from Republican budgeting wish lists Monday while unveiling his first economic policy plan in his run for governor.

Given the difficultly in campaigning on Texas' economic success in one breath and suggesting changes are needed in another, Abbott stuck close to proposals familiar to conservative state lawmakers. Even his final applause line to the approximately 70 people attending Monday was a promise to maintain.

"The truth is, Texas is the job-creating machine in America and Texans are the force that powers it," Abbott said. "And I will be the governor that keeps it that way."

In 2012, Gov. Rick Perry unveiled what he called a five-prong "Texas Budget Compact" that featured three of the same ideas outlined by Abbott: limiting state spending to a formula of population growth and inflation, ending budget diversions and preserving a strong Rainy Day Fund. Those were three of four constitutional amendments Abbott put forward on Monday.

The fourth was the always-popular — yet unapproved — amendment barring the Legislature from passing unfunded mandates on to local governments.

Even though Republicans handily control the Legislature, passing pet conservative budgeting goals never is a sure thing. Putting a constitutional amendment to limit state spending, for instance, requires two-thirds support in the 150-member House, where Democrats still have enough numbers to put up a fight.

Asked later about his preference for locking reforms into the constitution, Abbott said, "By imposing these standards by constitutional provision it means that for generations there will be limits in the growth of spending in this state."

Abbott also is reviving a failed push by Republicans this spring — led by Comptroller Susan Combs — to include debt information on the actual ballots in local bond measures for voters to consider before they check yes or no.

Dick Lavine, an analyst at the liberal-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, said there was nothing new in Abbott's plan that won't already be familiar to voters who've followed Republican goals on spending.

"The words are different. But the issues are all issues that are well-known," Lavine said.

Speaking at the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation, Abbott hit on some favorite conservative targets — President Barack Obama's health care law, the Environmental Protection Agency, the national debt, Detroit and even Greece.

"The thing I may be most known for are my fights against the overreaching Obama administration," Abbott said. "I have filed 29 lawsuits against Barack Obama and his administration because of the devastation it is doing to our economy."

Abbott has been attorney general since 2002 and has the financial advantage of having raised about $25 million. He faces two long-shot primary rivals. State Sen. Wendy Davis is the leading Democratic candidate for governor. No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994.

Brownsville sits in a strip of Democratic support that runs along the Texas-Mexico border. But Abbott had an ally in Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, one of the few elected Republicans in the Rio Grande Valley.

Cascos commended Abbott's defense of Texas' rights and reading of the U.S. Constitution. He said government should be there to support private business with needed infrastructure such as roads.

"It's important that we elect people who are going to do things for us," Cascos said.

Weber contributed to this report from Houston.

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