Another Red River rivalry
By OCPA President Jonathan SmallEach year in October, Oklahoma’s eyes turn south of the Red River to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the annual football rivalry between OU and Texas. Texas has won 61 of those games, OU has now won 46, and five were ties. Unfortunately, thanks to the tax, regulatory, and policy advantages Texas holds, we’re nowhere near that record when it comes to economic, versus athletic, competition with our southern neighbors. We’ve heard the sad story for years now. The gross domestic product of Texas is an astonishing $1.6 trillion. Ours is barely more than a tenth of that. Forbes says Texas has the number one business climate in America, which may explain why there are 109 of the 1,000 largest companies based there. Since 2000, the population of Texas has grown at twice the rate of the rest of the nation. Between 2010 and 2013, 1.3 million people moved there. By 2012, Texas boasted eight of the 15 fastest growing cities in the land, and for a period after the 2008 recession, Texas was creating a majority of all the new jobs in America. Ask yourself how many people you know who grew up and may have been educated in Oklahoma who now live in Texas. If you’re typical, you’ll run out of fingers and toes in a hurry. The Texas economic growth record is strong and sustained, and even in our best years, we’ve never come close to matching it. Of course we know why, and it has nothing to do with agile linebackers or nimble quarterbacks. The Texas advantage is simple: restrained taxation (including no state income or capital gains taxes), sensible regulatory policies, and prudent spending. Generally, Texas policymakers control spending in tight times. This year, Oklahoma state government will spend $4,577 per capita. Texas spends less than $4,000 per capita, and they still manage to provide core services. IRS data report that from 1992 to 2015, Oklahoma lost a net $1.48 billion in adjusted growth income to Texas. So what is Oklahoma doing right now? Some policymakers are forcing a special legislative session to raise taxes after three regular sessions that boosted taxes and fees by approximately $500 million annually and steadfastly refused to control spending. We also tax productivity and investment; Texas doesn’t and gets a lot more of it. Despite the Sooner win over the Longhorns, the state of Oklahoma gets beat every day of every year by the Texas economy. The win hardly offsets the losses of this and every year to the powerhouse Texas economy driven by sensible, pro-growth policies that we must emulate.
Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).