The following appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on July 30, 2023.
A recent editorial cartoon highlighted the vastly different approaches towards governance of New Mexico and Texas. The cartoon is of the state border circa 2030 as New Mexicans head to Texas for gas-powered vehicles (due to the recent regulations proposed by Gov. Lujan Grisham) while Texans visit NM for abortions and marijuana.
These are hardly the only differences between the two nowadays as Texas has no income tax or job-killing gross receipts tax, it is a right to work state, and state spending per-person is less than half of what it is in New Mexico. Not coincidentally, Texas is also one of the fastest growing states in the nation while New Mexico’s population is stagnant with young people leaving and being replaced by older people and retirees.
People have been talking about Texas’ economic success for decades, but a recent family vacation gave me the opportunity to see it firsthand. I have flown to several major Texas cities and have driven across the Panhandle more times than I care to recall, but this trip involved flying to Dallas and driving from all the way to Corpus Christi and the Gulf Coast. That’s a trip of over 400 miles including stops in major cities including Austin and San Antonio (in addition to Dallas).
We went deep in the heart of Texas and compared what we saw with our home state of New Mexico. Here’s what we saw.
- It seems like all the roads in Texas are under construction. Yes, this is a hassle for visitors and commuters alike, but it also highlights the fact that more people and businesses require more infrastructure. Aside from the road construction, the interchanges are often complicated with extremely high overpasses. Finally, just the sheer amount of construction equipment involved highlights the size and scale of these projects. Construction projects are definitely bigger in Texas.
- Setting aside roads and bridges, businesses are flocking to Texas as well. The Tesla plant outside Austin is the largest manufacturing space in the United States by floor area. Even in and around small towns construction was under way on significant buildings and cranes often dotted the skyline.
- Texas rest areas are incredible. One might think that with New Mexico having two of the nation’s most important east/west highways (I-40 and I-10) running through it (and a booming budget), would invest the tiny level of resources needed to make rest areas a place people want to stop and feel safe and comfortable doing so. This is especially true given the lack of road-side amenities available on many of our highways. Sadly, New Mexico’s rest areas are meager and often in a state of disrepair. Texas has playgrounds and historical/local interest information available for those who need a potty break or just want to stretch their legs.
Texas is booming. It provides a business-friendly environment and a government that does the basics well and at less than half the cost per resident.
While New Mexicans have a long-standing historical resentment of the Lone Star State, but the entrepreneurial, pro capitalist culture and polices clearly have a lot to be said for them. New Mexico can’t and shouldn’t be Texas, but we can also learn some valuable lessons from it.
Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility