Will Texas Sing the Blues?

Recently, CNBC released its ranking for top states for business. Texas ranked fourth. Fourth! We were first for years. In fact, at one point, we created more jobs in Texas than in all the other states combined. Texas leaders, we have to get back to business!

Texas has always been a conservative, even if not always a Republican, state. My dad ran for office in the early 1970s as a Republican when Texas was a deeply rooted blue state. Everyone laughed. Denton County had never elected a Republican. In fact, fewer than 20 Republicans served in the entire State House. My father proved the skeptics wrong, serving 18 years in the Texas House of Representatives as a Republican. While he retired before the GOP achieved a majority and elected a Republican Speaker, he and his party colleagues were part of a swelling movement that would swing the state more to the right … more “red.”

Many factors led to the political sea change during those years. Predominately, the Democratic party moved further and further to the left, abandoning its base of independent minded voters. Many of their voters were lifelong, dedicated Democrats. However, above all, they were Texans who valued the personal freedoms to build their businesses and raise their families without the stronghold of unnecessary regulations, frivolous lawsuits and stifling taxes. By the mid-90s, Democrats looked up to discover their voters disenfranchised. Texas swept in a full GOP ticket who promised compassionate conservative leadership. If the blue party saw it coming, they certainly didn’t take appropriate action to reconnect to their constituents.

I worked as intern on the George W. Bush’s successful campaign for governor in 1994. During that time, I witness the party I’d supported since I could walk or talk totally in step with Texans. They believed in smaller government, trusted local communities to make their own decisions, supported small businesses and created an environment where people would move not only their families, but entire companies to the state. The Texas Miracle was beginning to crystalize. I was all in. A true believer.

Fast forward 23 years, and Texas may very well be having a case of déjà vu. We completed what many in both political and business circles consider the worst legislative session for business in decades. And, many are bracing for what could be more growth stunting legislation passed during the special session. The once solid themes that had become synonymous with the Lone Star State: pro-business, job creation and limited government seem hard to find. Instead, a familiar “we know better in Austin” attitude keeps occurring. And, after so much work to create the national envy of business climates, Texas is slipping. We must realign our focus on solving vital, complex problems and recapture our unique reputation.

At JHL, we believe in business. We work to support industries who create jobs and invest in their communities. We believe in a Texas that earned its economic swagger. We believe in the Texas pride that tells us only being the best is good enough. And now, we’re concerned – concerned that some in Austin are forgetting the values and dreams of the Texas voters they represent.

After all, it’s all fun and games until the economy takes a hit and jobs are lost. Oh, wait…