Lt. Gov. Patrick in Brownwood: It will take years to recover from Harvey
BROWNWOOD, Texas - Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick spoke in Brownwood Friday morning, touching on several topics including Hurricane Harvey's impact, population growth, politics, and public education.
Patrick said Harvey rattled the state's economy when it hit the Gulf Coast two weeks ago, but the legislature won't need a special session to come up with the money Texas needs to recover.
"The Tale of Two Cities by [Charles] Dickens said it was the worst of times and the best of times. It is the worst of the times for many. Many have lost everything, but it's the best of times for the spirit of Texas," he said.
The free public event was put on by the Brown County Republic Women's Club inside Brownwood's Depot Civic and Cultural Center.
Patrick promised to speak at the group after a member, Stacy Odom, made a record 2,500 calls last year urging people to vote for then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.
Initially planned for 9:30 a.m., it was moved to 8 a.m. since Patrick had to be in Houston for a meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott concerning the state's recovery efforts after Harvey.
The storm displaced 400,000 to 600,000 Texans from their homes, according to Patrick. Half of the 70 reported deaths were due to people driving into deep waters.
"The storm hit areas that have never been flooded before," Patrick said. "Probably 80 percent of the people impacted … don't have flood insurance."
He reported that Beaumont probably won't have drinkable water for two weeks. He also said it will take years for that area of the state to get back to normal.
"We'll come out of this stronger, we'll come out of this better. It's going to take time," Patrick said.
He also touched on the rapid population growth in Texas over the last 17 years, with officials projecting 12 to 15 million more people living in the Lone Star State by 2040.
"When George [W.] Bush was president in 2000 there were 18 million Texans. Today there's 27 million of us," he said.
Patrick called the 2017 legislative and special sessions a success, despite the failure of a bathroom bill that he championed.
"The legislative session is over, the special session is over. What we're focused on right now is flood relief and getting people back on their feet," Patrick said.
Two audience members asked him questions on the state's financing of public education. Patrick noted that more than half of the state's funding goes to education.
"Education and health care in our budget are 83 percent. Public safety is 11 percent. That's 94 percent," he said.
It means the state has only 6 percent from its yearly $109 billion budget to spend in other areas, according to Patrick.
Patrick also stressed to audience members that he wants to avoid touching the state's rainy day fund, which is $10 billion.