Governor Greg Abbott is excited about the flow of people arriving from California to Texas. He is also very proud of the businesses that move or expand in the state.

These enthusiasms are stamped everywhere on his Twitter feed.

A recent example, from May 20:

“TX has led the nation for the past 8 years in new economic development and business relocation. Even during the pandemic, we went from the 10th largest economy in the world to the 9th. The TX model continues to attract more businesses and jobs to Texans. “

And this one on the influx of Californians, from January 2020:

“Californians moving to Texas: Remember those high taxes, heavy regulations, and advanced socialist agenda in California? We don’t believe it. We believe in less government and more individual freedom. If you are ok with that, you will fit in perfectly.

For Abbott, the Texan model is simple, as it was for generations of governors before him: keep taxes low, state services to a minimum, and regulations threadbare. Die before changing the state constitution to allow personal income tax.

Don’t violate these fundamental beliefs, and businesses and people will rush to Texas. This has turned out to be more or less correct over time.

But although he referred to the Texas model as an article of faith, Abbott scoffed at it. Much like Rick Perry, his immediate predecessor in the Governor’s Mansion.

In different ways, the two broke with the historic ethics of the small government of Texas.

Big tax breaks

At first, Perry added a big dose of corporate well-being to the way Texas attracts business.

It envisioned the Texas Enterprise Fund for “deal closing” for grants to businesses looking to relocate to Texas. He’s also been the force behind the Chapter 313 program, which allows local school boards to give significant property tax breaks to manufacturers and energy companies – costs all Texas taxpayers are forced to bear.

As an investigation by Hearst Newspapers (the SA Inc. cover story this week) demonstrated, many companies that received the tax breaks would most likely have built their big investment projects in Texas without the freebies.

Many Texas lawmakers have recognized the waste of Chapter 313 – enough to thwart its reauthorization in the recently completed legislative session.

Chapter 313 has helped companies avoid more than $ 10 billion in property taxes. The Texas Enterprise Fund has put more than $ 600 million in corporate pockets since 2003.

There is nothing small government about it.

Animus towards cities

Abbott’s violation of the Texan model is his eagerness to remove local control from big cities, even though he brags about how major employers and workers and their families are flocking to the state. As if they were settling elsewhere than in the urban centers of Texas.

Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio and their suburbs are regularly on the US Census Bureau’s lists of the fastest growing cities and metropolitan areas.

Together, the subways represent about 90 percent of the state’s economic activity.

Still, you don’t have to look far to see the anti-city bias of Abbott and many GOP lawmakers.

During the session that ended last week, Abbott supported and enacted a measure prohibiting cities with a population of 250,000 or more from cutting budgets for their police departments. He supported legislation that would have prevented local governments from using tax money to hire lobbyists to work on their behalf in Austin; it failed.

In 2017, he signed a bill prohibiting local governments from establishing themselves as “sanctuary cities” for undocumented migrants, and he supported caps on local property tax rates.

But Abbott’s support for the voting restrictions championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is perhaps the governor’s worst offense against the cities, which are home to far more black, Hispanic and Asian voters than anywhere else in Texas.

Texas is “completely urban” – overcome it

Senate Bill 7 would have: reduced the number of polling stations in larger urban counties; reduced voting hours on the last Sunday of early voting, apparently to thwart “soul-at-the-ballot” events in some black churches; left a free hand to observers in favor of the polls; and the required video surveillance of polling stations in cities of 100,000 or more inhabitants.

Texas House Democratic lawmakers killed the bill last week during regular session closing. But Abbott is likely to add the legislation to the agenda of a special session that has yet to be called.

SB 7 fed off the lie that President Donald Trump was cheated on re-election last year – and that the imaginary electoral fraud that brought Joe Biden to power must be rooted out. Of course, the measure was really meant to protect GOP officials in Austin and Washington DC.

As former Mayor Henry Cisneros and his co-authors noted in their book, “The Texas Triangle: An Emerging Global Power,” eight of the 35 counties that make up the Triangle went bankrupt for Biden in 2020. This included the larger: Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis counties.

Eliminating voters is the response of Republican leaders.

One of the big unknowns is when major employers – those who are already in Texas or planning to move here – will be fed up with attempts to restrict voting and other attacks on cities. When will they decide to hire elsewhere?

After all, companies like USAA, Dell, and Southwest Airlines are trying to recruit the best talent available across the country and internationally. And they are looking for more candidates of color.

Ignoring the fact that Texas is a completely urban state, as Abbott and Patrick do, only hurts their efforts.

Foster innovation

In March, public policy institutes at the University of Texas-Austin, Rice University and Southern Methodist University released “Texas Metropolitan Blueprint: A Policy Agenda to Secure the Competitiveness and Prosperity of Texas.” He took a dim view of attacks by heads of state against local self-government.

“The Texas governor and legislature have increasingly sought to restrict the power of local jurisdictions to choose and fund their own priorities – a move away from conservative, locally-centered governance,” the authors wrote.

“Local leaders need both the resources and the authority to develop policies that meet their particular needs. Texas should foster local innovation, not block it. “

If Abbott received the memo, he crumpled it up and threw it away.

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