Texas public policy foundation
Legislature Must Keep Our State Competitive

One decade ago, the effects of the previous recession finally reached Texas' state budget. The Texas Legislature arrived in January 2003 to the news that projected revenues were $10 billion below anticipated expenditures.

Other states in similar situations raised taxes to cover such differences. But our Legislature set a different course by curtailing the growth of state spending. Over the subsequent several years, while other large states drifted into a tax-and-spend death spiral, Texas' state finances became the envy of the nation.

Fiscal responsibility is but one of the wise choices Texas policymakers have made that have positioned our state as America's economic engine. Keeping regulations relatively low and predictable, balancing our civil justice system, and protecting Texans' right to work have made Texas most attractive to large businesses, entrepreneurs, and jobseekers.

Other states have noted Texas' recent success and are gaining ground by adopting our policies. As such, the 83rd Texas Legislature's challenge is to keep Texas on the leading edge of smart conservative policy. 

So that Texas remains at the forefront of prosperity, job creation, and economic growth, the Texas Public Policy Foundation recently released Keeping Texas Competitive, which lays out five conservative priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

As is typically the case, first among the Legislature's challenges will be the state's budget. Last session's accounting maneuvers plus the constant calls for more government spending will make it challenging for those who seek to balance the 2014-15 Texas budget without new taxes or fees. 

To this end, our first priority is to keep spending in line. Texas should tighten its existing expenditure limit to keep increases in state and local spending below the lesser of population growth plus inflation, the growth in gross state product, or the growth in personal income. This isn't about forcing politicians to live within their means; it's forcing them to live within our means.

Second, we should protect our health, environment, and energy economy, Texas-style. Special interests in both Washington, D.C. and Austin want to promote centralized, bureaucratic control of health care, environmental protection, and energy production. But Texans benefit to the extent we can reduce government interference in these areas.

Third, to ensure an educated and competitive workforce, Texas should build a higher quality, more efficient education system. Texans have gotten a poor return on their generous investments for public schools, colleges, and universities. The academic results Texans deserve will come from parental choice and accountability, not throwing good money after bad.

Fourth, policymakers should foster a free market economy by protecting property rights. People want to live, work, and do business here in no small part because they are able to keep more of the fruits of their labor. Protecting businesses from confiscatory regulation and private property from illegitimate takings will keep business and job growth on the rise.

Finally, we should maintain our strong and effective criminal and civil justice systems. Texas leads the country in reforming its criminal and civil justice systems to best balance public safety and liberty. We should increase our efforts to reduce over-criminalization of business practices while protecting our civil justice system from lawsuit abuse.

Keeping Texas Competitive is not only conservative policy, it is good policy. By following these recommendations, the Texas Legislature will benefit all Texans and maintain our state's role as the leading in job creator in the United States.