Monday, April 27, 2009

How to make Texas a better place

The best magazine there is, Texas Monthly, devoted the cover story of the May issue to the best ideas for improving the state of Texas.

There were some good ideas:

1. Start a state venture capital fund. A statewide Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

2. Protect our watersheds.

OK, there were not really that many great ideas.

But there seem to be more bad ones:

1. Make the Legislature meet more often. ARE YOU KIDDING?! That's the last thing we need.

2. Build a Transit System of Personal Pods. Uh... Not gonna happen.

3. Establish a Personal Income Tax. Texas boasts about not having a personal income tax, but when you move from another state, there aren't any advantages. Property taxes and higher home owners insurance cost mean a wash for most moving to the state. And on top of that, fees for licensing for professions and other reasons are higher in Texas as well.

So what does Texas really need to do:

1. Eliminate so many different election dates. All elections should be held in November. More elections mean more costs. Asking people to come out to the polls on a Saturday in May is not a smart move.

2. Move primaries to mid to late summer. Primaries should be in July. Why elect people in March who don't serve until the following January? That happens when only one party fields candidates.

3. Non-partisan races for judges. Judicial elections should not have the same vitriol as races for governor.

4. Combine school districts. This one will never happen. The Texas education funding system is the most dysfunctional program in America. But why are there so many different school systems? Boundaries were set up years ago, but times have changed. The down size to this is that school pride - and the economic engine of a school district - is critical for many small towns.

5. State government with stronger governor. The governor should be the most powerful political figure in the state, not the House Speaker.

6. More focus on technical/vocational education. There seems to be an obsession with a four-year bachelor's degree (or higher) in the state. But most of our jobs now need some type of post-secondary education other than a traditional college degree. More funding needs to go to colleges like Amarillo College if Texas is to be stronger economically in the future.

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