By Taylor Short
Killeen Daily Herald
Bill White, Democratic candidate for governor, sat down with the Killeen Daily Herald editorial board Tuesday afternoon to discuss his views on education, immigration, how to keep the Texas economy on its feet and why he hopes to unseat the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
"I'm running for governor because Texas needs a governor who can bring people together to get things done," White said. "I'm a successful businessman, a mayor who gets things done with bipartisan support and I have a chance to run against a governor who's been there nine-and-a-half years as a professional politician, trying to take credit for everything good about Texas without taking responsibility for failing to invest in the future of our state."
White said he plans to run the state like a business, prepare for the future by educating young Texans for jobs to compete in the global economy and bring a high level of integrity to the governor's office.
Q: Immigration: Do you feel an immigration law similar to Arizona's is appropriate for Texas? If not, is there a reasonable solution to the immigration issue in Texas?
A.: "I think it would become less safe if there was an unfunded mandate by local law enforcement to not answer 911 calls or to delay responses and instead do immigration work.
That is difficult because we have no type of national identification. A better approach is something where we've been a real leader in Houston … people are fingerprinted, if they don't have identification, those fingerprints are checked with the FBI national immigration databases to see if there are people with outstanding warrants or in the category of deportable felons. We've picked up a lot of people that way."
Q. Texas economy: As far as the economy goes, Texas is doing relatively well compared to other states. What can be done to attract new business and create jobs to keep the Texas economy going?
A. "In Texas, generation after generation has been at the top of job growth and population growth. The key to our economic future is training our citizens with the skills for the jobs of the future. I built businesses, I met payroll, I served on executive committees and the chamber of commerce before becoming mayor. We saw the challenges of attracting businesses and workers with a good quality of life and having a deeply trained workforce.
It's also about focusing on entrepreneurs and others within the state on areas for potential economic growth. I'm proud of the fact, when I was Deputy Secretary of Energy of the United States, I promoted for energy efficiency and renewable and we helped provide the initial funding for the first wind energy projects in Texas."
Q. Education: In Central Texas - more specifically, Killeen - we have a large school district and a huge number of military children. I know you favor early-childhood education and teaching for careers instead of teaching for standardized testing, but what can be done to help military students face their unique challenges?
A. "We need an education system that's not one-size-fits-all. You have kids from different backgrounds: some come very well-prepared, some who've been in international schools who are exceeding their grade levels. Others are not.
Some of the kids that are doing better than grade level are more self-paced and interacting with computers. It's been a tool that works because not everybody learns the same way.
The more students you have transferring in and out, it's even more important that we don't have a system of evaluating schools which is geared toward standardization or one-size-fits-all.
We need to learn critical thinking, problem solving, reading and writing: basic skills."
Q. Gun control: Central Texas College recently allowed licensed handgun owners to store weapons in their cars on campus. Where do you stand on the issue of gun control on campuses and would you be in favor of any further restrictions on firearms?
A. "On the latter point, no. On the former, there is a difference between me and Rick Perry. I got a B-plus from the National Rifle Association because I think those decisions should be made by individual campuses, the administrations and campus security forces. He favors more state mandates, one way or another. I tend to be more for local control.
On a larger topic, ask any school board member of any political affiliation about if they think unfunded mandates and regulations from the state have increased or decreased since Rick Perry has been there. Every single one of them will tell you they've increased. I think it's important for schools to have more flexibility, not less."
Q. Transportation: It's mentioned on your website that you are in favor of decentralizing the Texas Department of Transportation. How could this help cities and counties solve transportation issues?
A. "Obviously, (Interstate Highway 35) is a statewide project that we need to address and where we've lacked leadership. Almost everything we're looking at now should've been looked at 10 years ago.
I think those in local government have the best sense of local priorities. We need to fix TxDOT. In 2008, it made a $1.1 billion miscalculation that caused months and months of hardship for local governments. Any organization that makes a $1.1 billion mistake is not well-run.
There are many dedicated employees of TxDOT, but it's a lack of leadership from the top because they were preoccupied with the Trans-Texas Corridor."
Q. How do you feel you can grab moderate Republican support in Texas while keeping your support from Democrats?
A. "We're doing it all the time, every single day. I won (the Houston mayor's post) with over 80 percent of the vote in the most conservative, Republican precinct in the city of Houston. They trusted me with their security, their neighborhoods. They saw how I brought a business-like approach to government. They prefer somebody who had built businesses, who could be held accountable, who is not a professional politician, who won't even bother to show up in front of a single editorial board. We're getting good bi-partisan support.
There are challenges because (Perry) will try to figure out how many times he can say the word 'liberal' in a 30-second ad and depict me in ways that people who know me would never recognize.
But Texans are tired of that; they've caught on."