AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that many of the nation's 49 other governors — including New York's Andrew Cuomo — would love to be able to boast of the kind of employment and economic success found in Texas.
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 Texas' pro-business and limited regulatory environment has the state's 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 Gov. 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."
In Albany, Cuomo's office did not respond to requests for comment.
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 statistics 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 overtax and over-regulate and overlitigate, to be part of this great experience in Texas."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas' population grew by about 4.3 million or 20.6 percent, between 2000 and 2010, making it among the fastest-growing states in the nation.
Perry 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 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 forum hours after Perry was the state's U.S. senator, John Cornyn, who 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.
Cornyn has suggested that a partial government shutdown may be necessary to push Democrats toward reform of entitlement programs — and said Thursday night that Senate Republicans will no longer be willing to raise taxes during upcoming negotiations on raising the federal debt ceiling.
"Having raised taxes on the rich, the only thing left is the middle class," Cornyn said, blaming the White House for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans approved as part of the deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
The state's newest U.S. Senator and tea party star Ted Cruz had been scheduled to appear with Cornyn but was called away on Senate business. Instead, organizers played a short video of him.