That is how much Rick Perry has spent on recruiting companies to come to Texas—more than any other state in the country—according to the New York Times. Perry got a lot of attention for this story, but is it wasn’t the kind of attention that will benefit him politically. It reinforces his image as a big-government crony capitalist, a moniker first hung on him by Michele Bachmann. Using public money for private purposes is the kind of big-government action that tea party conservatives thoroughly dislike.
One might reasonably ask: What would $19 billion buy in state services? For one thing, it would could pump money into public education, which could fix the state’s perennial problem of ranking dead last in the number of adults who lack a high school diploma. It would underwrite research at the state’s major universities. It would allow the state to raise rates for health care providers, who have been squeezed in recent years, to the point where many will not take Medicaid patients. It would bail out hospitals that have to bear the burden of uncompensated care in their emergency rooms. It would go a long way toward funding the state’s water plan. It would allow the state to give teachers a pay raise.Texas has made scant progress in any of these areas during the Perry years.
The governor is entitled to have his priorities concerning state spending. But, for most of his governorship, he has had only one priority, which is enticing companies to move to Texas. Corporate subsidies are not the only reason for the job growth in Texas. In addition to companies moving here, the influx of population in the previous decade is another reason for growth. The surge in population has expanded the work force, allowing government and private employers to do more hiring.