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Republican Gov. Rick Perry told Texas lawmakers Tuesday he wants to spend nearly $4 billion on big water and transportation projects by tapping the state's Rainy Day Fund.

But there were many topics Perry skipped in his State of the State message amid his declining popularity in Texas.

Perry didn't talk about red meat issues like border security, immigration, abortion, or guns.

But with perhaps billions of extra dollars in the next budget, he backed something usually popular with voters.

"I think providing tax relief of at least $1.8 billion over this biennium is a good place to start," he said.

Perry urged citizens to let him know the best way to return the money, and called for a constitutional amendment that would permit such refunds directly to taxpayers... a process that isn't currently established under Texas law.

The governor also spoke glowingly of the Texas economy as a job creator, and his pet education ideas, including a college tuition freeze and more charter schools.

But Democrats like State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County) dismissed Perry's push for tax relief. "What he failed, of course, to recognize is the incredible need of our education, our higher education, and our health care community for those resources," she said.

With Perry facing a potential Republican primary challenge from Attorney General Greg Abbott, who sat in the audience for the State of the State address, the governor looks for winning political resources. A new poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling underscores why.

The survey found among Texas voters, 62 percent don't want him to run again for governor, with only 31 percent saying he should.

Among GOP primary voters, when asked whether they would like Perry or someone else to be the party's nominee next year, 47 percent prefer someone other than Perry, whom 41 percent still want.

The PPP poll of 500 Texas voters has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent. Among 400 GOP primary voters the margin of error is +/- 4.9 percent.

Abbott, who is less widely known, runs about even with Perry, who has a slight edge, 41 to 38 percent.

Wayne Slater, senior political writer with The Dallas Morning News, notes Perry's weakened state after his failed campaign to be the GOP presidential nominee.

"Rick Perry is clearly politically wounded after that presidential race,"Slater said. "Not only do national Republicans in some cases have questions about him as a national candidate; Texans didn't particularly like it the way he portrayed the state. He let down the state, I think, in the minds of many Texans."

But fortunately for the political state of Perry, the primary is more than a year away, and as Perry has said, he's been underestimated before.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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