President Barack Obama is traveling to Texas to promote technology-based education, training and jobs as he seeks support in Congress for economic initiatives he proposed earlier this year.
As Obama steps off Air Force One in Austin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to be again waiting on the tarmac. This time, with a message about the economy.
The Republican, a frequent critic of Obama's economic policies who ran for president in 2012, has recently traveled to California and other states to encourge businesses to move to the Lone Star State's relatively tax-free environment.
“Gov. Perry simply plans to welcome the president to Texas and perhaps encourage him to implement Texas’ successful economic policies nationwide,” Perry spokesman Josh Havens said.
Editor's Note: ObamaCare Secrets Revealed
In 2010, during a previous visit, Obama waved Perry off as he tried to hand him a letter asking for stronger border security.
“I was surprised that we couldn’t find a time while he was in town to sit down and speak a little bit longer,” Perry said at the time.
Stops today around Austin, including at Manor New Tech High School and at an Applied Materials Inc. factory, as well as meetings with students, workers and entrepreneurs, are intended to give Obama a platform to promote proposals from his February State of the Union speech. Those include raising the minimum hourly wage to $9 and spending on education, manufacturing- innovation centers, worker training and research.
Obama plans to announce that his administration will begin competitions for three of the innovation centers and issue an executive order requiring government data be released in a form that entrepreneurs and researchers can use to generate applications and new services, according to the White House.
The visit -- Obama’s second trip to Texas in two weeks -- also takes place as U.S. lawmakers are debating a new immigration law that may significantly affect the border state, where Hispanics make up 38 percent of the population. Texas also is a target for Democrats who want to overturn the Republican Party’s dominance in statewide and federal elections there.
While immigration won’t be a direct focus of Obama’s visit, “I’d be be surprised if he’s going to talk about middle-class economic reform and he doesn’t at least mention immigration reform,” said Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington policy institute with ties to the administration.
Obama has repeatedly linked changes to immigration law with future economic growth.
“Texas employers have been at the vanguard of calling for sensible immigration reform, so the economics of this issue resonates very acutely in Texas,” Fitz said.
The metropolitan area centered by the state capital had a March jobless rate of 5.3 percent, compared with 7.6 percent nationwide. Computer-maker Dell Inc. is based in nearby Round Rock and Apple Inc. has announced plans to double the size of its 3,500-employee customer-support center in Austin, with about 820,600 residents, over the next decade.
While turning Texas into an electoral battleground state is a long-term project for Obama’s party, putting attention on economic growth in a city dominated by Democrats such as Austin helps, said Jeremy Bird, a Chicago-based political consultant and Obama’s former national campaign field director.
“A presidential visit in the spring of 2013 is not tied around any election,” Bird said. At the same time, “It certainly doesn’t hurt to highlight some of the great things that are happening in Austin. One of the things Democrats in Texas need to continue to do is to talk about what their vision of the economy is.”
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, yesterday dismissed questions about any connections between Obama’s agenda in Austin and Democrats’ political ambitions in Texas.
“I can guarantee you that is not what this is about,” Carney said. “Austin is a hub of innovation and technology. It’s also a hub of education.”
: ObamaCare Secrets Revealed
The technology-focused Manor high school Obama will visit provides an example. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2010 cited it as an example for ways to boost opportunities for low-income and minority youth. Of the school’s 341 students last year, 46 percent were economically disadvantaged, 48 percent were Latino, 25 percent were white and 21 percent were black, according to data provided by the school district.
Obama visited Texas last month, joining four former U.S. presidents in Dallas to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Center and attending an April 25 memorial service for residents and emergency workers killed in an April 17 fire and explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, near Waco.
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