Texas is the wrong model
Dan Logue should look instead to California under Pat Brown for lessons in creating prosperity
As Lee Laney’s letter in this issue suggests, 3rd District Assemblyman Dan Logue is planning a trip to Texas and taking some fellow lawmakers along. He’s convinced Texas is some kind of employment Shangri-la where jobs are sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain, and he wants California legislators “to see for themselves how Texas has created all those jobs,” in the words of his Butte County field rep, Steve Thompson.
Thompson touts the 119,000 jobs Texas supposedly created from 2009 to 2010, but the state’s unemployment rate as of December 2010 was 8.3 percent, only a percentage point under the national average. And many of those jobs are low-paying, with one out of three wage earners making too little to keep a family of four above the poverty line—double the percentage in California.
And then there’s the matter of the state’s budget deficit—$27 billion, higher even than California’s. The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature is dead set against raising taxes in this low-tax state, so much of the money will come out of education. That in a state where the high-school graduation rate is 61.3 percent, ranking it 43rd in the nation. Texas also ranks fifth in child poverty and leads in the number of children without health insurance.
According to the Missouri-based Kauffman Foundation, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, Texas lags behind California in major research universities, patents produced, high-tech infrastructure and venture-capital investment.
It’s fostered jobs by keeping taxes low, but that has also meant fewer services for those without wealth and greater income inequality. And now that unwillingness to tax has turned into a massive deficit and devastating cuts to education and Medicaid.
Low taxes are only one among many reasons why businesses locate in a given state. Cost of living, ability to recruit skilled employees, quality of schools, infrastructure and other similar issues are just as important, if not more so. And that’s where California is starting to fail, by systematically starving those services of revenue.
For a better model than Texas, we need only look to California under former Gov. Pat Brown, whose investments in schools, services and infrastructure underpinned a prosperity that lasted for decades.