Greg Abbott’s new ad focuses on his jobs plan, depicts the attorney-general rolling across a map of the United States as if he himself is an infographic, and elicited the following reaction from Austin-based consultant Colin Strother: “He proposes absolutely nothing. Literally. He proposes inertia. Inertia!”
That’s about right, although proposing inertia, in this case, is proposing that we not mess things up. In the ad, Abbott says that if he’s governor, Texas will control state spending, unleash the oil and gas industry, and keep taxes low. That’s basically the Texas model. The plan itself–it’s the “Working Texans” section of Abbott’s “Bicentennial Blueprint” (PDF)–is more detailed but not more radical. Most of its recommendations are focused on tidying up budget process. If implemented they could help constrain both taxes and spending, as the ad suggests; ‘could’ rather than ‘would’, because the Texas model of low taxes and low services is already in effect. For example, the plan wants to impose a requirement that the Legislature can only override the state’s constitutional spending limit by a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority. The simple-majority provision, per Abbott, means that the constitutional spending limit is only “a meaningless ‘safeguard'”–although, as the plan notes, “this provision has never been exercised.”
In other words, as Strother put it: when it comes to jobs, Abbott is effectively proposing nothing. If he was running for president, that would be ominous. But he’s running for governor of Texas, and the state’s record of job creation since 2000 is nearly dispositive. “Let’s keep doing what we’re doing” is a good plan in that sense. And it’s perhaps worth noting that Abbott is advocating the status quo (more or less) at a moment when criticisms of the Texas model are coming from the right as often as the left. The Texas model calls for a lean public sector, not a negligible one. Reading through Abbott’s plan, there are several provisions against the growth of government, but none that would arbitrarily undercut it. (And reading between the lines, Abbott isn’t trying to crack down on spending as much as he’s trying to crack down on political chicanery and shell games.)
The next governor of Texas should, of course, resist complacency; the state’s economy is more diversified today than ever. That’s not a bad thing–it’s partly a result of the Texas Miracle–but it does mean that we should make appropriate investments in education and infrastructure. Abbott’s jobs plan includes several provisions about ending diversions that would benefit infrastructure–and since the jobs plan isn’t explicit about education, I suppose there might be an implied willingness to cut school funding in favor of road funding. On the other hand, his blueprint also includes sections on public education and higher education, and the recommendations there acknowledge and anticipate Texas’s changing workforce needs.