AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry insisted Thursday that many of the nation's 49 other governors would love to be able to boast that their states have experienced the employment and economic success that Texas has — including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Addressing a conservative policy orientation, Perry again celebrated his state's growing economy and budget forecasts that the state Legislature will have billions more to work with as lawmakers head back to work this week. He also repeated calls for legislators to cut taxes, and said they should maintain the kind of austere state spending imposed while Texas was still feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
Perry said the state's pro-business and limited regulatory environment has Texas' economy humming, while some other parts of the country struggle.
"I'm sure that I couldn't get all 49 other governors to admit that they would want to be Texans," he told a sympathetic crowd. Perry then referenced Cuomo's support for gun control and said, "I'm thinking that Governor Cuomo would not admit that he'd want to be a Texan."
"But if he were truthful," Perry added, "you could say that the economic climate that has allowed the state to grow and create jobs, he'd dearly love to be able to stand up and say 'we did this in New York.' But he can't."
New York's unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in November from 8.3 percent a month earlier, while Texas' fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.2 percent over the same period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This year's event marked the 11th annual policy orientation sponsored by the influential Texas Public Policy Foundation — and Perry is the only speaker to have addressed the gathering every year. A chart citing federal data displayed outside the ballroom where he spoke proclaimed that Texas had created nearly as many jobs as the rest of the country combined, though it was not clear which years the federal data covered.
Perry called on the new state Legislature "to find ways to improve our state's infrastructure. The water, energy, surface transportation.
"All of those are so important to the state," he said. "We're growing, as people are relocating from other states where they over-tax and over-regulate and over-litigate to be part of this great experience in Texas."
The governor also said Texas should become a leader in offering affordable college and technical training for future employees.
"But we can have the best workforce, we can have the best infrastructure," he said. "But if the economic climate is not appropriate, if it is too restrictive to the point that businesses feel they can't succeed, then it doesn't matter."
Republicans have majorities in both the state House and Senate, and dozens of conservative lawmakers have registered to be a part of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's three-day conference.
Addressing the conference Thursday night are Texas' U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, a rising tea party star.
Cornyn authored an article Thursday detailing why he won't support President Barack Obama's nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as U.S. Defense Secretary.
Cruz, meanwhile, promises to repel efforts to expand federal gun-control laws — and even has accused supporters of such measures of exploiting the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.