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DALLAS-When the 81st legislative session convenes Jan. 13, Gov. Rick Perry says the state’s elected officials will have some work to do to keep Texas on its fiscal track. The proposed belt-tightening will be expected at all levels.

“All state agencies will need to dial back their spending,” Perry said during his annual “state of the state” address before the Dallas Regional Chamber. Nearly 300 officials, businesspeople and civic leaders were on hand for the luncheon at the Downtown Sheraton.

“We will be taking a look at the difference between a want and a need,” the governor stressed, citing the Texas Gulf Coast as an area of extreme need. He estimates the damage toll will top $11 billion. His team is keeping “steady pressure on FEMA” to get reimbursements comparable to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but he added “Ike’s financial impact is going to be with us for awhile.”

In terms of prospective cutbacks, Perry said there is a need for “greater truth in budgeting.” He said the reality is state agencies must function like Texas businesses and families, both of which are tightening belts and cutting spending.

Perry indicated the belt-tightening won’t be at the cost of Texas’ growth strategy. The upcoming legislative agenda will include a governor-backed proposal to use the state gasoline tax for infrastructure improvements and transportation. Perry is pushing to fund the Department of Public Safety from the general revenue coffer to free up the gasoline tax for highway projects.

Not to be ignored is the border. Perry said signs are evident that the clamp-down is choking off transit routes although there is work to be done to cope with transnational gangs that have muscled their way into the state.

Perry reminded the crowd that Texas is the envy of its peers, but it’s not sheltered from the global financial storm. “Our economy is better than other states to weather the financial storm that’s roiled the nation and the globe,” he said. “But, we need to apply the mindset that’s made Texas a leader: plan for the worst, pray for the best.”

Perry said the state is well positioned to work through the tough times, with a low unemployment rate and more Fortune 500 companies in its bounds than any other state. “These are crucial pillars to continue to strengthen a state that’s the envy of the nation,” he said. “We need to be good shepherds of the resources that we have.”

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