Good morning. I want to start by thanking Sergio Contreras and the RGV Partnership for hosting this event and gathering people to talk about what is transpiring in our communities, what we can do together.
As I drove here this morning I did look at the infrastructure that is being built and I thought about the thousands and millions of man hours and women hours and the shoulders that we stand on to have just gotten here on that expressway. And the medical school as I passed by UTRGV. And you see the infrastructure that has transpired over generations, people from the RGV and leaders from around Texas that have invested in the Rio Grande Valley.
The time is now for the people in this room to be an even stronger voice. It is time for us to demand our fair share of what is going on. So, I will talk a little bit about transportation. It has been my great honor to serve as the House chair of transportation for two sessions and I believe, if the speaker wants me back, I will serve a third session.
But I have learned so much in that role. Much of it I did not know. But now I have a clear picture like never before of the importance that the Rio Grande Valley plays, not just for us, not just for the rest of the state but on the national level. The port of Pharr does almost $40 billion of trade every year. The Anzalduas Bridge almost the same. Seventy percent-plus of the produce that feeds our nation comes through these ports.
We talk about border security a lot in Austin. What about food security? If we had the proper infrastructure that aligns these ports of entry, these economic engines, which, by the way… people have to drive stop light by stop light by stop light, endangering our communities, slowing the flow of traffic and goods and slowing our market. If we spent a drop of what we spent in Houston, Dallas, building cathedrals and freeways, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas would be stronger, the United States would be stronger, the border would be stronger. We would create jobs, thriving jobs.
We are already doing amazing things with the little infrastructure we have. Think about if we could prioritize, instead of building a wall, building real ports of entry. Often times, on the Mexican side, their infrastructure is better than ours and that is absolutely unacceptable.
The reality is the Rio Grande Valley is not a war zone, it is a trade zone. When the rest of the nation has been in recessions, the Rio Grande Valley is thriving. When Covid hit and they even shut the border down, which was recently opened and please God they don’t close it again, our sales tax numbers didn’t dip anywhere near as projected.
The fact is we are resilient. We are strong. This is an amazing, vibrant community, whose economy withstands more blows than any other region of the United States. So goes the Rio Grande Valley, so goes the state of Texas, so goes the United States. And if we know we are the barometer, because we are, if we know we are the economic engine, then why can’t we convince our leaders in Austin to invest where we should be investing?
The reality is that the state population is scheduled to double in the next 20 years. In about 28 years we will have double the population here. It took almost, or more than a decade to get the overpass built. It took more than a decade for us to get the expansion of the Anzalduas Bridge to become a full commercial bridge. Everything that we do in the Rio Grande Valley, we have to fight twice as hard and twice as long. But we are tenacious and we do not give up. But the reality is it should not be that hard and that is why this room comes together. That is why you are here. Because you give a damn. I give a damn. And in order for us to move forward, it is incumbent upon us to have these gatherings, people that care, people that want to see the Rio Grande Valley move forward, people that know that we stand on the shoulders of giants and we ourselves will be looked upon as giants by our children when we build the infrastructure that helps them thrive. (applause)
I am pleased to say I passed a lot of meaningful legislation through the help of our Valley delegation. The Texas Mobility Fund is going to give another $3 billion in GAP financing. We also passed a constitutional amendment to allow counties to use tax reinvestment zones. We are also going to get an increase in overall funding because of the merger of the MPOs in excess of $2.2 billion. We are doing great things but it is incumbent upon the people in this room, the business owners, the bankers, the lawyers, the universities, the educated, the uneducated, it does not matter, everybody needs to be at the table. Everybody needs to be fighting for the Rio Grande Valley because it deserves us to fight for it.
Another matter I want to share with you. Groups like this… and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two of the speakers that are here today, that have taken time to come down to our community. I want to thank you, Glenn Hamer, president of the Texas Association of Business, thank you, Glenn, for being here. The Texas Association of Business is another one of these groups, just like the Partnership, that is involved, is part of what we are doing here, part of a grander picture, part of not only a stronger Texas but a stronger United States. I also want to thank my friend Lee Parsley from TLR. Lee worked tirelessly with me over the last session to fight frivolous lawsuits on construction defects. They were almost eliminating construction, people didn’t even want to build any more. The best builders, the best contractors did not want to be here anymore because of the nonsense that was going on. As a practicing lawyer, as someone who makes a living practicing law, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and people like Lee and TLR, I am proud to work with you in stomping out some of the stuff that hurts our community.
I will tell you this and I will leave you with this. This morning, when I was getting my kids ready for school, and I was in a hurry. They just started school yesterday after getting vaccinated. I said, I have got to hurry, I have got to be somewhere. My little boy says, where do you have to be. And it struck me. I said, I need to rephrase that, son, I don’t have to be anywhere, I get to be with the Partnership. I get to be here today. You get to be here. That is the attitude we that need to have when we wake up. We get to fight for the Rio Grande Valley. We get to make a brighter tomorrow. Thank you to the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. Thank you, Sergio. Thank you for allowing me to be here. And thank you for giving me your time. And I hope that today you leave here proud of yourself for showing up. Thank you for being something greater. I am proud to be here with you and I am proud to work with you on everything going forward. Thank you. God bless you. (applause).
Editor’s Note: The above commentary was given by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, chairman of the Texas House Committee on Transportation, at an event hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and held at the Mission Event Center on Jan. 12, 2022. The event was titled: “87th Legislative Session Wrap-Up – Impact to the Business Community.”
Editor’s Note: We will have more coverage from the RGV Partnership event in upcoming editions.
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