Abbott shared updates on COVID-19 vaccinations, discussed economic development in Texas and presented his legislative goals at a Dec. 18 virtual legislative session preview with the Cedar Park, Georgetown and Round Rock chambers of commerce as well as with the Williamson County Economic Development Partnership.
“You all are extremely aggressive and effective in economic development in the greater Williamson County area,” he said to the about 80 attendees.
This year, there were several announcements of large companies such as Oracle, Tesla and Hewlett Packard moving to Texas. Abbott said CEOs are keen on better tax policies and a regulatory environment in Texas. Companies have also relocated to the state for increased safety for families and businesses, he said.
"Businesses don't have the tools or ability to make communities safe, that is the government's responsibility," he said. "During this past year, it has become quite obvious—and quite dangerous—how unsafe some cities are."
Abbott said his legislative priorities in the next session include giving liability protection to businesses who follow protocols, developing skilled employees, providing health care coverage to people with preexisting conditions, increasing and improving telemedicine, pushing back on measures to defund police departments, and facing the increasing homeless population.
Round Rock Chamber of Commerce President Jason Ball asked Abbott about pro-business legislation and how the governor’s office will legislatively promote economic development in Texas. Ball said tools such as Chapter 380 agreements and Chapter 313 and the Texas Enterprise Fund are important in local communities to grow the “Texas miracle.”
Abbott said he supports and uses these tools, but his team needs the support of economic development leaders, including those in Williamson County, to move these tools past the goal line in the session.
“We need your voices to be very loud during the course of the session on these issues,” Abbott said. “I think if you often come to the table and advocate in support of these, they will be renewed.”
In discussing the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, which starts Sept. 1, Abbott said the shortfall will not be as large as expected. Industries involving international travel are the only sector that he believes will remain affected in late 2021 since countries are on different distribution timelines for vaccinations. Abbott said he expected anyone who wishes to receive a vaccine to have received one before the next budget begins Sept. 1.
Abbott said even though there are areas in Texas currently spiking with cases and hospitalizations, he expects numbers to level off, decline and increasing decline in the coming weeks. He said more than one million doses of vaccines will be administered in Texas by the end of the year, which he said is equivalent to the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state. He said over 250,000 vaccines have been distributed this week.
“We now have a medical answer to the challenge COVID-19 posed,” he said.