The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) hosted a debate between candidates for governor of Texas, incumbent Gregg Abbott, a Republican and challenger Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, on Sept. 30 at the University of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. Replay the video here, and see the transcript prepared by NOWCastSA interns Ali Mohammad and Levi Garcia below.
Question: What would you do to alleviate the financial burden placed on these communities? (2:43)
Greg Abbot: (2:48) “We've been working to respond to the disaster caused by the Biden administration, that has caused such an economic burden on these communities. Farms and ranches are… are run over communities are disrupted homes that are invaded, remember this just two years ago we had one of the safest borders in decades, but under the Biden administration we have more people coming across the border than ever in the history of our country. Texas has responded by making sure that we have the National Guard and DPS deployed where they're making arrests and turning back illegal immigrants as well as what we're doing to help local communities by bussing them from the area where border patrol is dropping them off to sanctuary in northeastern parts of the country. But what we're doing is making sure that we are keeping our community safe and this is completely different then the way things would be under because he said months ago. There's no problem on the border, he said that he would reduce immigration enforcement. He even said that 95 percent of people come across the border illegally is allowed to stay.”
Beto O’Rourke: (4:08) “What we just heard from the governor is just what we're likely to hear over the course of this debate, he's gonna blame people like President Biden. He's going to try to lie about my record and he's going to distract from his failures, whether it's his failure to keep the lights on the grid, his failure to address school shootings or his failure in immigration. We're eight years into his time as governor this is what we have on our border. In fact, $4 billion dollars into Operation Lone Star we're seeing not fewer but more encounters at our border right now. What we need is a safe, legal, orderly path for anyone who wants to come here to work, to join family, where, to seek asylum if you come to this country. We expect you to follow the law, but on our side, we're going make sure that our laws reflect our values and or our interests and I'm going to work with local leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike to make sure that we have a Texas-based guest worker program to alleviate shortages that we have interstate from labor demands and reduce inflation supply chain issues as well.”
Question: (5:21) Should more money be allocated towards Operation Lone Star and if so how much?
Greg Abbot: (5:28) “Well candidly, we shouldn't have to allocate any money for it because this is all because of Joe Biden's failure to do the president's job to secure the border. We're only having to do that because of Joe Biden's failure and because, it would be the same pathway that Beto would take us down, speaking of which he talked about this a guest worker program, have done that had he won the race for the senate or won the race for the president. That's not a job for governor, the job of governor does have to deal with the chaos caused by the Biden administration and U.S. open border policies.”
Beto O’Rourke: (6:23) “No, it's clearly failed. The numbers are in and we're seeing not fewer but more engagements at our border. When the governor spent $4 billion of our tax dollars on what has turned out to be political theater for his political career. He promised us that it would deter people from coming to this country, we only see more people come. Now they get a bus ride to Chicago or Washington DC or New York. We don't need any more stunts, we need solutions, we need those coming here to follow our laws. We need to make sure our laws follow our values.”
Greg Abbot: Reply (6:57) “Sure so these are our efforts to protect our state. There's a record amount of fentanyl coming across the border. This deadly, we've, the Texas law enforcement has seized enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in the entire country and this is because of Joe Biden.”
Question: (7:53) Can you explain why your view on deploying troops has seemingly changed when it comes to the border?
Beto O’Rourke: (8:00): “It hasn't, and I’ve actually been to Sabata and Webb and Maverick counties and listened to these members of the guard. They’ve had less than a week to say goodbye to their families and to their careers, and to their communities to be part of the governor's political feeder. Those aren't my words, those are their words. So far, we've lost the lives of eight guard members, four of them have taken their lives, and four of them have died in questionable circumstances. None of whom by the way was killed by anybody coming in to this country. These guard members say they have no powers to arrest or detain anybody; 10,000 guard members, $4 billion dollars, and it's been a complete failure, much as everything that the governor has done has been a failure for the state. What we need are solutions, not more stunts, where we can have a strategic deployment on a voluntary basis for guard members, let's do that. I've been consistent on that, where we can partner with local sheriffs, with DPS troopers, let's do that, but we need to work on things like a Texas-based guest worker program to meet labor needs in our communities, and to ensure that our laws match our values.”
Question: (9:38) The White House has called this (bussing immigrants) a political stunt. Governor Abbott, is this a political stunt? And has there been coordination with the states and cities these migrants are being taken to and if not why not?
Greg Abbott: (9:47) “So this operation began after meeting with local officials, uh, sheriffs, mayors, police chiefs, and county judges. Where they were overrun with the number of migrants that Border Patrol had dumped into the, to their tiny little communities. They needed relief, and bussing was one of the ways of providing them relief, and thus began the process of bussing migrants to cities that self identified as sanctuary cities. Mayor Adams has never called my office, never talked about it in my administration, and so what he's saying is just flat out false. There has been communication between nongovernmental organizations in texas, as well as the ultimate location, whether it be Washington DC, or New York. But going back to what Beto said, he's what you showed on video earlier. Was what happens throughout this entire campaign, where Beto continues to flip-flop on issue after issue after issue. His flip-flop on the border issue, he's flip-flopped on the energy issue, such as energy jobs in the Green New Deal, he's flip-flopped on defunding the police. Where there's one issue or another he keeps changing positions.”
Question: (10:49) I want to be clear though, you say that Mayor Adams has never called your office.
Greg Abbot: (10:50) Correct.
Question: (11:00): Why shouldn't sanctuary cities share the burden of what's happening on the Texas border?
Beto O’Rourke: (11:09) “Look I live on the border, no one cares more about the security and safety of the border than those who are raising our children there. I also served as a city council member there, and in my time working with law enforcement, working with state, and federal partners, we were able to help make El Paso, Texas, one of the safest cities in the United States of America. It's because we are looking at solutions, instead of these stunts. I just want to remind everyone, this guy's been governor for eight years, and this is where we are today, some of the worst levels of engagements, encounters, fentanyl trafficking, and human smuggling that we've seen. That is the result of stunts instead of solutions.”
Question (11:38:) I’ll give you 15 seconds to respond.
Greg Abbot: Reply (11:44) “ He mentioned El Paso, the fact of the matter is, that El Paso mayor; a Democrat, the El Paso council Democrats, they are now bussing more people than the state of Texas is bussing and he's not calling them out for bussing.”
Beto O’Rourke: Reply (12:01) “It’s a completely different program, it is, it is apples to oranges, and I'll tell you. This hateful rhetoric. This treating human beings as political pawns, talking about invasion, and Texans defending themselves. That's how people get killed at the Walmart at El Paso, the gentleman in Hufsmith, that we just learned about yesterday. This is incredibly dangerous for Texas and is not reflective of our values.”
Question: (12:21) Governor, I want to give you 30 seconds to respond to those charges.
Greg Abott: (Reply) (12:23) “Sure, it is clear, that Beto just wants to perpetuate the open border policies, and mischaracterize exactly what's going on. He refuses to acknowledge that the city of El Paso because they are so overwhelmed by Joe Biden's open border policies, they too are having to bus migrants out of the communities because they have no way of keeping them of keeping them there. That's what we're trying to do to help our local communities, and make sure we're going to lighten the load.”
Beto O’Rourke: (Reply) (12:48) “ No one is for open borders, not the least of us who actually live on the borders, that, this is the kind of stunt you get from Greg Abbot, we need solutions right now.”
Question: (13:02) These migrants are being sent to states and cities with democratic leadership. Why aren't these migrants being sent to so-called sanctuary cities in Republican led states like New Orleans or, or, Metro Atlanta?
Gerg Abbot: (13:12) ”So again, be-because, the cities of New York, and Washington DC, and Chicago are so large and have infrastructure that is available. They have the capability of accommodating the number of migrants that are being sent better than these other cities that you talked about. There will be other cities, in the future, that also will be on the receiving end of migrants because we will continue to have to move migrants because Joe Biden continues to allow more illegal immigrants to come into the state of Texas.”
Question: (14:33) Can you explain your position on raising the age limit to purchase an assault rifle?
Greg Abbot: (14:40) “First there's no reason why a little girl like that should ever have to say anything like that. There's a reason why these parents are angry, and they're rightfully angry, and I can feel their pain. No sha..no parent should lose a child and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that does not happen. We want to end school shootings. But we cannot do that by making false promises. It's a false promise to suggest that we can pass a law that will be upheld by the Constitution to raise the age and here's why. The most recent federal court of appeals decision on this particular issue said that, that it was unconstitutional for a state to raise the age from 18 To 21. For a person to buy an AR-15, so any attempt to try to, to raise the age is going to be met with it being overturned. So we need to get to the bottom of what is really ailing our communities, and that is the mental health that is leading people to engage in school shootings and Texas is already addressing that.”
Question: (15:49) Are you against this proposal because you feel like it's unconstitutional or you personally believe that it's unnecessary?
Greg Abbot: (15:56) “Purely, from a legal position, based upon what that Court of Appeals decision ruled and importantly based upon what the Supreme Court decision said in a June opinion that changed the way that that Parkland case was determined. I know how that Parkland case was determined. Florida is going to have this law overturned because of the Supreme Court decision.”
Question: (16:22) Explain your position on raising the age limit to buy an AR-15?
Beto O’Rourke: (16:26) “First of all, I'm going to follow the lead of those families from Uvalde. That's who I'm doing this for, in fact, many of them drove more than five hours, 280 miles to be here today even though they're not allowed in this theater because of the governor's conditions. Because they want to hold him accountable, because it's been 18 weeks since their kids have been killed and not a thing has changed in the state to make it any less likely than any other child will meet the same fate. All we need is action and the only person standing in our way is the governor of the state of Texas. In Florida, after the Parkland shootings, it was 23 days for that Republican governor to raise the age. And in those states, where the age has been raised, mass shootings are down 80 percent. So yes, we can raise the age to 21 and as governor I’ll bring Republicans and Democrats around the table to do that. After all these mass shootings, this governor has done nothing except make it easier for people who should not have a firearm to carry them publicly and this is what we get as a result, we need change.”
Question: (17:29) What is your policy regarding red-flag laws, where does your position stand?
Greg Abbott: (17:57) “Well let me tell you what I support, and I don't support. What I support is making it a felony for someone to lie on a background check. I signed that into law last year. I approve of expanding background checks to include juvenile records and also approve of making it a crime for criminal gangs to buy or to possess a gun, but I'm still against red flag laws for the reason that it would deny lawful Texas gun owners their constitutional right to due process.”
Question: Are you for confiscating AR-15 style weapons or not? (18:54)
Beto O’Rourke: (19:01) “After losing 23 of my neighbors to somebody armed with a weapon of war, after talking to these families who could only identify their children in Uvalde by the shoes that they were wearing, it’s clear to me that the only place an AR-15 or AK-47 makes sense is on a battlefield. But as governor of the state of Texas I need to be focused on what we can get done. Raising the minimum age of purchase to 21, we can get that done. A red flag law, we’ll get that done. Universal background checks, we will get that done. We will make progress and take action where this governor has failed. (Question repeated.) I’m for making sure that we make progress, those families that I was just with in Uvalde want us to take action. This is the common ground. Listen the Republicans and Democrats alike on this, we can agree on this much, raise the age to 21, red flag law, and universal background check.”
Question: What would you do if elected to prevent this from happening again? (Uvalde Shooting) (20:19)
Beto O’Rourke: (20:24) “Just like you, I’m a parent. With Amy we’re raising Ulysses and Molly and Henry in El Paso, and we are well aware that it’s been 18 weeks and this Governor has not lifted a finger to make it any less likely that any of our kids will meet that same fate. We need change, the Governor just talked about mental health care, uh, we are dead last in the nation when it comes to mental health care access, and he took $211 million dollars from the mental health care budget of the State of Texas. He talked about police funding, he failed to fund the police radios in Uvalde even when that police department asked for them, and you know what? Those radios failed on that day. I want every parent out there to know that the lives of your children are more important to me than the NRA, or any special interests, or any other political consideration. I will prioritize them ahead of everything else and we will take action, and we will make progress. We will bring Republicans, Democrats, Independents alike together, and we’ll get the job done where this governor has failed to do so.”
Question: Can you explain why you didn’t call a special session? (In regards to Uvalde tragedy) (21:41)
Greg Abbott: (21:44) “I will, but first I’ll respond to what we respond to every single day. Beto’s campaign continues to spew lies and false information. He said two things that are completely false, he said that we’re last in mental health care. The fact of that matter is, Texas is now 27th in mental health care because a funding that I provided. Texas has provided more than $25 billion dollars for mental health care and the last three sessions. He also said that we did not fund police radios in Uvalde, completely false, we provided $1.6 million dollars for Uvalde alone, for their police radio systems since I’ve been Governor. So Beto continues to provide false information. What I want to make sure that the leaders in Uvalde know is as we’ve shown, we don’t need to call a special session in order to take action. For six consecutive days after the shooting took place I issued directives to make schools safer and respond to the emergency in Uvalde. And then I remain engaged with the Mayor, with the local leaders…”
Beto O’Rourke: response (22:45) “It could have been worse - that’s what you told those families that’s what you told that community, and you’ve done nothing to help them…”
Question: Will you make school safety an emergency item for law-makers when they meet (in January)? (23:01)
Greg Abbott: (23:06) “Absolutely, just like I did in past sessions, this is going to be an emergency item. Over the summer I requested special legislative committees to begin working already so that they will have ready when we begin the sessions. But the broader based issue across the entire state of Texas, as you mentioned earlier.”
Question: (23:52) Is there anyone else who should be held accountable for the mistakes made in that hallway in Robb Elementary that day?
Beto O’Rourke: (23:59) “The governor said it himself in an interview to Gromer Jeffers last month, there should be accountability up and down the ballot, beginning with Greg Abbott. I think he has lost the right to serve this state in the most important position of public trust. Uh furthermore, we know that there were 91 DPS troopers, for whom he is responsible, who are on the other side of an unlocked door, some for more than 70 minutes. There is a complete failure to hold people responsible-accountable, those families still do not have justice, as governor I will make it my priority.”
Question: (25:12) Who misled you (regarding Robb Elementary tragedy)? And will they be held accountable?
Greg Abbott: (25:18) “Everyone in that briefing room that provided me the information about what law enforcement did. What that comment was based upon was information by law enforcement about all the children and all the other classrooms that they evacuated during the time when the shooter was on the campus. What they did not tell me at the time, however, was that there were dozens, if not more, of other law enforcement that were hanging around in the hallway for over an hour, without engaging in the Columbine Protocol and going in and immediately removing that shooter, which is what they were supposed to do, and because they failed to do that, there does need to be accountability, not just for Pete Arredondo, but also for local law enforcement, DPS officers are under investigation as we speak right now. There needs to be accountability for law enforcement at every level for not following the Columbine Protocol…
Follow-up: (26:07) You will be sure to hold DPS troopers accountable as Governor?
Greg Abbott: In a word, yes. But second, there are at least seven who are under investigation as we speak right now, two of whom are on suspension as we speak right now. I expect DPS officers and law enforcement across the state to follow the Columbine Protocol.”
Question: (27:53) Is emergency contreception a viable alternative to abortion for victims of rape and incest?
Greg Abbott: (28:00) “To directly answer the topics that you raise, on the availability of it, it’s becoming upon on the state of Texas to make sure it’s readily available. For those who are victims of sexual assault or survivors of sexual assault, the state of Texas pays for that, whether it be at a hospital, at a clinic, or for someone who get’s a perscription because of it. So not only should it be readily available, but the state of Texas is going to pay for it, to make sure that it is available for them…(Question re-addressed)...Well it depends on what you mean by alternative, an alternative obviously is uh to do what we can to assist and aid the victim. That is to help get them medical assistance that they need and the care that they need, but also to know what their options are. To know that the state, through our alternatives to abortion program, provides living assistance, baby supplies, all kinds of things that can help them, also with increase funding for prenatal and postpartum Care.”
Question: (29:23) Do you support any limit on when a woman can’t have an abortion?
Beto O’Rourke: (29:29) “This election is about reproductive freedom, if you care about this you need to turn out and vote. I will fight to make sure every woman in Texas can make her own decisions about her own body, her own future, and her own healthcare. And I will work with the legislature and my fellow Texans, to return us to the standard that Texas women wanted in the first place, Roe vs Wade. That’s the standard that answers your question, but I’ve got to respond to this, this silliness on Plan B, this comment he made about eliminating rape in the state of Texas, this is an attack on women. More women have been raped in the state of Texas than any other state, there are 3,000 untested rape kits at DPS headquarters, meaning that our ability to bring rapists to justice has to climb by half on this governor’s watch, and it’s arguable that rapists enjoy more victims-more rights under Greg Abbott than their victims do because they can sue the families of their victims if they help their victim get an abortion and may be able to win a $10,000 bounty in the process.”
Greg Abbott: (Response to Beto’s comment) (30:33) “So once again, I’m going to be doing this a lot to have to point out a misstatement by Beto. I signed a law that eliminated the rape kit test backlog at the Texas Department of Public Safety. As it concerns abortion, Beto’s position is the most extreme because he not only supports abortion of a fully developed child to the very last second before birth, he’s even against providing medical care for a baby who survives an abortion, is for unlimited abortion at taxpayers expense.”
Beto O’Rourke: (31:03) “That’s not true, that is completely a lie, um I never said that and no one thinks that in the state of Texas. He’s saying this because he signed the most extreme abortion ban in America, no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest, it begins at conception and it’s taking place in a state that is at the epicenter of a maternal mortality crisis, thanks to Greg Abbott, three times as deadly for black women. I will fight to make sure that every woman makes her own decisions about her own body, her own future, and her own healthcare, that’s what most of us, Republicans and Democrats in this state believe. (Question re-addressed) That limit was decided in 1973, through a victory that Jane Roe and Linda Coffee, Sarah Weddington won before an all-male United States Supreme Court. I want us to return to that, it was the law of the land for nearly 50 years until we had the most extreme abortion ban in the country.”
Question : Do you support measures to defund police?
Beto O’Rourke: (32:19) “Of course I don’t and no one does, um but let's look at my record, I think that’s the best thing to look at, then we’ll look at the Governor’s. On the El Paso City Council, I raised police salaries 12 percent in the six years that I served there. In Congress, I funded $11 billion dollars to local and state law enforcement across this country, including in Texas. I want to fund law enforcement, fund training so that everyone is treated equally under the law, and I want there to be accountability for when those officers abuse the public trust. But let’s look at what Greg Abbott’s done, when police and law enforcement begged him not to sign permitless carry because it allows anyone to carry a gun in public without a background check, he turned his back on them, and did it anyhow. Homicides have gone up 50 percent and we now have gun violence as a leading cause of death for children and teenagers in this state. When the Uvalde Police Department asked for funding, he turned his back on them. He is not doing what keeps us safe, that’s why you see the levels of rape, violent crime, and homicide up on Greg Abbott’s watch.”
Question: (33:26) After the summer of 2020, did you voice support for cities that cut their police budgets, Minneapolis comes to mind, did you support those efforts?
Beto O’Rourke: (33:39) “What I supported and what I continue to support, is full funding for law enforcement, full funding that includes training, to ensure that we’re treating everyone equally under the law, and we definitely need accountability and justice. If someone abuses the power of life and death over our fellow citizens, without accountability, we lose the ability to keep our communities safe.”
Question: (33:57) Governor Abbott, you have spoken about the growing crime in Texas in your commercials and on the campaign trail. You’ve been Governor for more than seven years, so why is crime up? Don’t you bear some responsibility for it?
Greg Abbott: (34:15) “So to fully answer that question, let me reply, that is once again Beto’s misleads, by saying we denied Uvalde Police Department any money. We’ve answered every call they ever made to make sure they have whatever funding they need, and Beto clearly said in response to Minneapolis, that he supports their idea of defunding and dismantling the police, and I gotta add this, he didn’t say a word to criticize the city of Austin, that defunded their police by more than a $100 million dollars. The law I passed will prevent any city from defunding the police, because in Texas, we support our law enforcement officers period. The reason why there’s been a rise in crime in some areas Gromer, is because the another issue we’re working on, and that’s what’s happening in Harris County and some other counties, where in Harris County, they have these easy bail policies that Beto supports, which is cashless bail, that’s letting dangerous criminals, such as people recently convicted of murder last year, back out on the streets now who killed a police officer recently in Houston, Texas. (Question re-addressed)... So let me again explain what happened, in Austin, after they defunded their police, the year after that, they got the highest number of murders ever, and Harris County, where they have this easy bail policy, in the past couple of years there has been hundreds of people killed by people let out on bail, who have been previously arrested for murder.”
Viewer Question: (37:03) Are you confident in its reliability? (regarding the state grid)
Greg Abbott: (37:07) “Very confident, in fact I even guarantee the power will stay on before we faced that winter afterwards. When Beto was campaigning saying that the grid was going to fail, in the winter and summer, his campaign hopes fell apart because the laws that I signed did secure the grid. Ever since I signed those reform laws, no Texan has lost power because of the Texas power grid, and know this Steve, and that is this summer, we set an 11 new, all-time records for heat. Time and again, the power grid was able to keep up, and it’s because of the reforms that we were able to make. And so the power grid remains more resilient, more reliable than ever before. To go ahead and answers Douglas’s question which we appreciate, one reason why it’s more reliable is because we have greater power available to us, and the greater ability by the Public Utilities Commission to address it, but also we are going to be adding more renewable power- I mean nonrenewable power such as natural gas, to make sure the power stays on.”
Question: (38:13) There hasn’t been any major issues with the grid, with outages since the winter of 2021. What do you make of the changes that Governor Abbott and the Legislature put in to make the grid more reliable, what would you do more differently?
Beto O’Rourke: (38:29) “Governor Abbott’s grid failure is part of a pattern over these last eight years. Warned about for example, school violence and gun violence, specifically against children, does nothing. Warned about problems within Child Protective Services, our foster care program, does nothing and it gets worse. Warned before February 2021 that we have problems in the grid, did nothing. When the blackouts started, he ordered the price of electricity pegged at its highest allowable rate, gas started trading at 200 times it had sold for the day before, now we are all paying $45 more on average in utility bills, it’s the Abbott tax that all of us pay. Seven hundred of our fellow Texans lost their lives because of his incompetence and his un-inability to do what was necessary before Feburary of 2021, and the kicker is the grid is still not fixed, just ask Toyota. They stopped their third shift in San Antonio because it was drawing too much power, we had three conservation notices this summer, we are not ready for this next winter, we need a Governor who’s going to do the right thing”.
Greg Abbott: (30-second Remark) (39:35) “All Beto does is fearmonger on this issue, when in reality the grid is more resilient and reliable than it’s ever been. I do want to respond to the price because, importantly, Texans need to know this, and that is after yuri- after the reforms that we passed, Texas has one of the lowest electricity prices in the country, far below the national average, and less than half of what the electricity price is in California.”
Beto O’Rourke: (Reply) (40:00) “It’s one of the fastest growing costs in the state of Texas, and when you look at our higher energy bills, our higher property taxes, $20 billion more under Greg Abbott, you’ll see that he’s the largest driver of inflation in the state of Texas right now.”
Greg Abbott: (Reply) (40:14) “So, he just makes this stuff up, because again, the reality is that the electricity cost in Texas remains one of the lowest in the entire United States of America, and far lower than the national average.”
Question: (41:11) How are you going to keep qualified teachers in the classroom?
Beto O’Rourke: (41:16) “I mentioned earlier that Amy and I are raising our three children in El Paso, where they attend the world class public schools there. And we know firsthand the important job that those educators do, and I want every educator out there to know that I’ve got your back. And I’m going to make sure that we pay you enough not to work a second or third job, because of Greg Abbott our teachers are underpaid by $7,500 dollars a year. I’m going to ensure that you have more valuable classroom time, to connect with those kids, so we’re going to stop the STAAR Test, and allow you to focus on drawing forth that lifelong love of learning from every child. For you retired teachers, I’ll make sure you have a cost of living adjustment every single year going forward. You haven’t had one in 18 years, eight of those on Greg Abbott’s watch, and most importantly I will treat you with the dignity and respect that you have earned and that you deserve. You sacrifice and give so much to our kids and to this state, we need to make sure we’re holding up our end of the bargain, as governor I will.”
Question/Response: (42:16) Do you support giving them (teachers) a pay raise if you’re elected and if so, how are you going to pay for that?
Beto O’Rourke (42:22) “Absolutely I want to give them a pay raise, I want to make sure again that they’re not working that second or third job. What I propose to do, and there’s Republican and Democratic support for this, is raise the state’s share of school funding. Right now, we ask property taxpayers, the home-owners and renters out there, to shoulder the majority of the burden. I want to make sure that the state is shouldering its fair share. We do that, we could reduce your property taxes at home and provide more funding for our schools, increase teacher pay, and more per-pupil funding in every district in Texas.”
Question (42:56): How are you going to keep qualified teachers in the classroom?
Greg Abbott: (43:00) “I will, but I gotta say, raise the state’s share of education in funding is exactly what we did, both in 2019 and in 2021. In fact, I provided more funding for education than any governor in Texas history. I provided more funding for teacher pay raises than any governor in Texas history. As we gather here tonight Sally, per-pupil funding in the state of Texas is at the highest it has ever been, so we will work with the teachers to make sure- I created a new program. I’ll tell you about- I created a new program that provides a six-figure salary for teachers, more than a $100,000 dollars, it was used very effectively and broadly in the Dallas County, or Dallas Independent School District area, and is catching on around the state. If teachers will dedicate themselves to be these master teachers, they will be able to earn a six-figure salary. (Question re-addressed) Yes, we-just as we have given them a pay raise in the past, we will continue those pay raises going forward.”
Beto O’Rourke: (Reply) (44:19) “Per-pupil funding in this state is $4,000 dollars less than our counterparts across the country. Educational attainment is at an all-time low, pre-pandemic, and the average fourth grade classroom in Texas, most of those fourth graders could not read at grade level, we need to get the backs of those teachers.”
Question (for Abbott): (45:18) Have you moved too far to the right Governor?
Greg Abbott: (45:23) “Let's look at uh, the issues you brought up and that is for one, as a Catholic and my wife and I, we’ve been pro-life our entire lives so much so that it grew even stronger when we adopted our daughter. The day she was born, I was the very first person to hold her after she was born, and I’ve seen firsthand the power that adoption can have, and it just further strengthened my belief in the power of giving life to every child possible, seeing how it can happen so successfully, and I want others to be able to have that same sense of joy, not only that my wife and I had, but also that our daughter has had. In general, one thing that we’ve been able to achieve across our state of Texas, we’ve ensured that we provide opportunity for everybody. Gromer as we gather here tonight, Texas ranks number one in jobs created by Black business owners and jobs that are Hispanic women business owners. (Question re-addressed) What I tried to explain to you Gromer, is that I am governing from principles, I’m not looking at changing and constantly flip-flopping positions like other people do, I’m governing from my principles.”
Question (for O’Rourke): (47:06) Why have you run for so many different offices, is it about ambition or public service?
Beto O’Rourke: (47:15) “You know, I feel so lucky that through so much of my life I’ve had the opportunity to serve others. As a small business owner in El Paso, Texas, creating high-skill, high-wage, high-value jobs in our community. As a member of the city council, as member of Congress on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, delivering those who put their lives on the line for this country, for all of us. It has been the honor of my lifetime, and now to run, to be able to overcome these failures that we see in Texas right now, whether it’s a grid that doesn’t work, teachers who are leaving their profession by the thousands, um leading the nation in number of school shootings, being able to deliver for people who are counting on us at this moment of truth, to make sure that we come through. And it’s not just me, and it’s not just my political party, there are hundreds of thousands of people across the state of Texas who want change and are working for it, and it’s my honor to be able to lead this campaign and to serve as the next governor of this state, to make sure that we deliver for them.”
Question: (49:22) How would you provide long-term property tax relief?
Beto O’Rourke: (49:26) “You know about the governor's proposal. You have to ask yourself where this guy's been for the last eight years. People across this state are hurting. The average Texan now is paying more in taxes than the average Californian. When you combine that with this failure in the grid, that has sent our energy bills through the roof and the cost of housing, he's the single greatest driver of inflation in the state of Texas. This is how we can turn it around. One, let's expand Medicaid, we’ll go from the state that's the least insured to one where everyone can see a doctor or be able to fill a prescription. It will also reduce our property taxes because right now you are on the hook for uncompensated indigent care. Two. Let's up the share of state spending for public ed. I talked about earlier, the state spends 40 percent, local property taxpayers 60 percent. Under my leadership, we will get that to 50/50 reduce the pressure on local property taxpayers. And third, let's make sure that there's property tax fairness, corporations in this state are not paying their fair share, that means all of us pay more.”
Greg Abbott: (50:37) “Property tax relief is central to this election, and to Texans at home just like Missy. And know this, there's only one person on this stage tonight, who's ever raised property taxes and that is Beto. Beto raised the property taxes three times when he was on the city council in El paso. I will never raise property taxes, one thing he knows also and that is the state of Texas does not levy the property tax, that's only done at the local level and so what the state of Texas has done and we will continue to do, is to drive down the ability of the local governments, from me, from being able to raise taxes and I'm the only one with a bold vision for actually cutting property taxes as you pointed out, because of our strong economy in Texas we have a budget surplus of $27 billion dollars. I want to use at least half of that $27 billion dollars to drive down property tax rates. Steve, it can be done. In a long-term basis, if we use that to lower the school property tax component.”
Beto O’Rourke: Reply (51:46) “Like many local leaders, we have to deal with unfunded mandates sent down by Greg Abbott, that's our mental health care system with the county jails with the largest provider of mental health care services, our schools. As Governor, I’ll make sure that we expand Medicaid so we reduce that demand, and up the sheriff state spending, that's how we get this done.”
Question: (52:18) How will you get proposals through a Republican-controlled legislature?
Beto O’Rourke: (52:22) “Republicans and Democrats alike across the state want to make sure that we reduce property taxes. I think we all have a vested interest in that outcome. They also agree on common sense bipartisan solutions. Expanding Medicaid, all that means is getting $10 billion dollars back of our federal income taxes to the state to reduce our property taxes. Why Greg Abbott has not done it, when every border state has, is beyond me. Making sure that we legalize marijuana\ so we no longer spend half a billion dollars locking people and forgo another half billion dollars in revenue again makes no sense. Let’s legalize marijuana.”
Question: (53:13) How do you solve this problem (of tax reductions that have not kept pace with rising property values) without introducing additional revenue streams?
Greg Abbot: (53:17) “Sure, so one way that we have reduced property taxes is through those homestead exemptions. Another way that we've done it is by buying down the property tax rate at the school district level. And what I propose to do with this $13.5 billion dollars, if not more, is to drive down those property tax rates even further. My goal is to eliminate the school property tax that is imposed in the state of Texas, so that people can genuinely own their own home without being taxed out of it.”
Beto O’Rourke: Reply (53:52) “He's a, he's had eight years to get this done. If it's such a good idea, why are we talking about another four years to accomplish that. I will reduce your property taxes as governor. This guy has, has raised them by $20 billion dollars, 40 percent increase since he first took office. You want more property taxes, vote for Greg abbott.”
Greg Abbott: Reply (54:13) “Sure, so it, anybody who knows anything knows, the state does not raise property taxes, the only reason why we’ve gone up is because evaluations that would mean that I get credit for the biggest enrichment that people have had. I will not take that. One thing we've had to do, to add on top of it, we need to reduce the appraisals, we've got to completely change the appraisal system.”
Closing Statements (54:43)
Beto O’Rourke: (54:45) “Look, I don't think that Greg Abbott wakes up wanting to see children shot in their schools or for the grid to fail. But it's clear that he's incapable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to prioritize the lives of our fellow Texans. That's why it's on all of us to make sure that we have change at the ballot box this November 8th. I’ll keep your lights on, I’ll make sure that they keep your kids safe. We will reduce property taxes and will prioritize the lives of each and every single Texan in this state.”
Greg Abbot: (55:18) “Texas ranks number one for the most new jobs added since you’ve re-elected me. We're number one for blue ribbon schools, number one for tier one research universities, and number one in so many categories. I'm running for reelection to keep Texas number one, to cut your property taxes, to secure the border, to keep dangerous criminals behind bars and to keep deadly fentanyl off our streets together. Together, we will keep Texas number one.”