AUSTIN — By most measurements, Texas’ economy is performing well ahead of most of the other large states and outpaces the national economy. The “Texas miracle” is attracting about 1,000 interstate immigrants to the Lone Star State every day and the state dominates annual rankings of which states are the best places to raise a family, own a home and be in business.
But Texas can still do better, and frontrunning GOP candidate Greg Abbott detailed how today. In a speech in Brownsville, Abbott introduced his “Working Texans” plan to promote economic growth and strengthen the fiscal health of state and local governments across the state.
“The building block of a strong economy is an environment where entrepreneurs and workers have the freedom to aspire, to innovate, to grow and to prosper,” Abbott said. “Increasingly, we’re seeing government as a hindrance—rather than a help—to economic growth.”
Abbott, the sitting state attorney general who has launched numerous lawsuits to challenge Washington policies, took direct aim at several that he says hinder growth.
“At the federal level, especially with laws like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and lawless regulations by agencies like the EPA, we’ve seen the heavy hand of government impose burdensome and costly programs that stifle job growth, take more tax dollars and limit the ability of workers to take home more pay,” he said
Echoing Ronald Reagan’s economic philosophy, Abbott called for government power to be scaled back: “To get government off the backs of workers and job creators, and to unleash the power of entrepreneurs and innovators, government must be limited. When government is limited, freedom is expanded. When freedom is expanded, free enterprise flourishes and individuals prosper. I will be Governor of a state where freedom, free enterprise and individual prosperity are staples of society.”
Abbott backs up the rhetoric with a serious, detailed plan for curbing government growth and forcing it to live within its means. The “Working Texans” plan consists of eight broad sections, covering matters from strengthening the governor’s line-item veto power to fighting unfunded mandates from the state to local governments, to looking ahead to the growing state’s transportation issues. More people living here mean more houses, more cars and more trucks and trains to move goods, which means more roads and more larger roads to carry all that. Abbott’s 15-page plan calls for reforms to the state’s budgeting process, and calls for increased transparency at the local level. Behind Texas’ success story lurks an unsettling fact: While the state government does well to live within its means, local governments are carrying massive debt. Abbott’s plan doesn’t shy away from tough issues, and takes that problem on head-on. “Working Texans” calls for cities to post detailed information on the debt they carry, all the way down to the level of school districts. The information would include the original purpose of the debt, and how the money was actually spent. Abbott’s “Working Texans” plan also recommends a constitutional amendment to force state spending limits based on population growth and inflation, and an amendment that would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to override that limit.
All of this is to “right-size” government as Abbott said in Brownsville today, which he says needs to be done to keep Texas growing.
“Today, Texas is one of the leading economies in the world,” he said. “But, we’re beginning to see warning signs of problems. Unemployment still remains above where it was before the recession. Last month, the Tax Foundation downgraded Texas’ status out of the top ten states in the country. The size of our state government has grown faster than our population. Our local debt load is the second highest of the large states in the country. We’re beginning to see cracks in our economic foundation that could lead to serious damage for taxpayers if the right policy choices aren’t made.
“To keep Texas on the right track, we must never forget that you know better how to spend your money than do bureaucrats in Austin or Washington. To help you keep more of your money, to preserve your pursuit of happiness that was embedded as a bedrock principle in our foundational document, government must be restrained in taking your money.”
“Working Texans” also calls for protecting the state’s Rainy Day fund, stop diverting funds designated for building roads to other uses, make sure that designated funds are spent for their designated purposes, and establishing a Citizen Commission on Government Waste to help the state identify and eliminate unnecessary agencies.
In his speech, Abbott did not name the likely Democratic nominee for governor or the president she supports, but he did draw a clear line on the kind of Texas he envisions, and the kind that his likely opponent envisions: “Some people want to transform Texas into California—a free-spending nanny state that puts government behind the wheel and citizens at the mercy of its edicts. But I believe in the Texas model of freedom—and so do a lot of Californians. More Californians are fleeing to Texas than any other state.
“As Governor, I will protect that freedom and those economic principles.”
“Texas is a job-creating machine and Texans are the force that powers it. I will be the Governor who keeps it that way,” Abbott concluded.