Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Michael Hiltzik on the Texas Miracle

Lots of good stuff in this comparison of the surprisingly similar fiscal woes of my native and adopted states. In particular, the following passage caught my eye:

Curiously, Texas' reputation as a low-tax, business-friendly state survives although its state and local business levies exceed California's as a percentage of each state's business activity (4.9% versus 4.7% in 2009, according to a report by the accounting firm Ernst & Young). What's different is that Texas business taxation relies more on property, sales and excise taxes and government fees than California, which relies on taxing corporate income.

Of course, one reason many business owners and executives favor Texas over California is that the Lone Star State doesn't have a personal income tax — a big deal when you're pulling in a Texas-size paycheck.

But self-interest aside, what's at stake from fiscal policy in both states is the same — the services and programs that really matter to business owners, such as functioning schools, high-caliber universities and serviceable transport infrastructure.

Even more important are the measures that point to public well-being. In many categories, California and Texas are closer together than either state's residents would probably find comforting.

But here are a few where they're not: Texas ranks 49th in the nation (that is, third worst) in teen births; California 22nd. In providing prenatal care to expectant mothers, Texas is dead last, California eighth. Texas ranks 34th in median family income, with $47,143; California 13th, at $56,852. This is the harvest of its "superior policies," and given the current budget crisis, it's bound to get worse. Miraculous.

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