Texas lures people with promise of opportunity
By Steven Greenhut
March 24, 2014
SACRAMENTO — Bob Lanier, a Texas-drawled Democrat who was Houston’s mayor throughout most of the 1990s, told a meeting I attended a few years ago that he fled his blue-collar hometown for Houston because it is an “open city” – a place where anyone from any background could succeed (or fail) based on his own merits.
I haven’t been to Houston for ages, but I’ve known more than a few people who have fled California’s pristine scenery for the swampland and dusty plains of Texas. They didn’t leave for the landscape or the fresh air, but for the kind of economic opportunities that Lanier was talking about.
California’s leaders often mock Texas and its Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has been on an almost evangelical mission to lure California businesses eastward. Earlier this month, Perry visited Los Angeles, Orange County and the San Jose area. He’s been in TV ads pitching Texas to businesses and has boasted that in the last two years California companies created 14,000 jobs in the Lone Star State.
People will argue about the numbers. But the Texas-v.-California rivalry grabs attention because it is shorthand for the approaches adopted by the two major political parties, with Democrats controlling Sacramento and Republicans controlling Austin.
There’s little dispute over the basics. A new survey by WalletHub confirms what myriad surveys have shown. California has one of the highest overall tax burdens in the nation. It imposes a 36 percent higher tax burden than the national average, with only New York imposing a higher burden.
Texas isn’t the lowest-tax state, but ranks No. 7, with tax rates 25 percent lower than average. Other studies suggest that Texas has a less-oppressive regulatory burden and a lower cost of living than California. There’s no question that some high-profile California businesses have headed to Texas.
Beyond that, the debate gets murky. California officials have been boasting about their state’s newly filled general-fund coffers. California not only is “back,” they say, but its environmental, budget and regulatory approach should be a model for the nation. They point to researchers who argue that the number of jobs going to Texas is fairly insignificant.
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