As a candidate for Texas Land Commissioner, I’ve made it very clear that although things are good in Texas, we can make them even better.
There are 21 different departments at the General Land Office. And there are scores of issues handled by each of these departments.
And one of them is protecting, preserving and promoting a vibrant coastal economy. That’s why today I am proud to be here in Corpus Christi to announce my Blueprint for a Better Coastal Economy.
This plan will ensure that the right decisions are made today so that the Texas coastal economy is preserved for many tomorrows. As Carl Sandburg famously wrote, “nothing happens unless first a dream.” I want to share with you my plan for an even better Texas coastal economy.
As Land Commissioner, I will work with all stakeholders to build regional and statewide consensus and find solutions that strengthen our coastal economy. And I will use the bully pulpit of the GLO to fight for the interests of the Texas coast in Washington. I will also reach out to neighbor states and internationally to promote the Texas coastal economy. And I will create an advisory committee to provide advice and counsel on how best to promote the economic interests of the Texas Coast.
And so, on day one in office, I will begin using the power of my office to strengthen our coastal economy in three ways:
First, we must focus on protecting our critical coastal infrastructure. Texas is home to two of the top five largest ports in the nation. The 564.7 million tons of cargo moving via Texas Ports generates 112,100 jobs and $277.6 billion in economic activity directly related to marine cargo activities. In fact, Texas port activities represent approximately 25% of the total State Gross Domestic Product.
We dodged a bullet when Hurricane Ike landed just eastward of the Houston Ship Channel. Even so, the region suffered $29 Billion in damages and the state experienced $142 billion in economic losses. Corpus Christi could face a similar threat. Right now, the GLO is investigating ways to reduce the vulnerability of the upper Texas coast to hurricane surge and flood damages. When this report is completed, I will work with local, state and national leaders to implement solutions that will protect this and other strategic areas from storm and hurricane surge. And these solutions will be based on sound technical and economically justifiable solutions to protect this region. We must be prepared for the next storm. And under my leadership, we will be.
Second, we must fight for the Texas coast in Washington. Washington plays a huge role in funding important coastal projects. Last summer, Congress passed needed reforms which modernized and streamlined federal regulatory requirements and provided full funding for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will submit a list of recommended projects to Congress on an annual basis. Only projects that make this list will be eligible for funding. As Land Commissioner I intend to use the powers and influence of the office to ensure that Texas projects make that list and that the people of Texas get back the money that we’ve paid in with our taxes.
Finally, we must promote the Texas coastal economy. As the state office with the most responsibility for the gulf, I will also make sure it’s the office with the biggest voice promoting our beaches, our coastal industries and our tourism industry. Some quick facts: Saltwater fishing contributes $2 Billion in economic impact in 2011 and almost 17,000 jobs. Tourist spent $14 Billion in 2011 visiting our coast. Over $1 Billion was spent on cruises departing Texas ports, creating over 16,000 jobs. Wherever I go, I will be an advocate for the beautiful Texas coast and for the incredible beach destinations in Texas. And I will never stop talking about how they coexist with our amazing refineries, ship channels and oil industry. I will fight to protect and promote this important aspect of our Texas coastal economy.
So that is my agenda for the Texas coast:
Preparing for storms and hurricanes…
Fighting for funding and regulatory relief in Washington…
And promoting the Texas coastal economy.
That is our mission and this is our moment.