June 14, 2015
Texas is a global leader and the world is watching to see how the Texas economy works, especially our energy sector.
Some are watching to see how they can to emulate our state’s success in achieving robust safety standards, predictable regulation and a thriving economy anchored by oil and natural gas activity. Others are watching to see how they can more effectively compete with Texas, both domestically and in the global marketplace.
During the 84th Legislature, lawmakers were painstaking in their efforts to keep Texas safe, competitive and strong. Their efforts will translate into more jobs and more opportunities for Texans.
Texas continues to lead the nation in job creation because our lawmakers have an appetite to examine our state’s economic foundation for cracks and to reshape public policies that bolster our competitive stance across the board. From permitting and regulation, to taxes and transportation, this Legislature seized opportunities and tackled an array of challenges, and the state is stronger for it.
For example, other states clamor to entice investment away from the Lone Star State — the No. 1 place to do business for the past 11 years. Until recently, the state’s permitting process was making the courtship for major industrial investment all too easy for our Gulf Coast neighbors. Before Senate Bill 709, by Republican state Sen. Troy Fraser of Abilene and state Rep. Geannie Morrison of Victoria, it could take up to four times as long to get a permit for a major industrial project in Texas than it did in nearby states. Previously, timing for permitting process was open-ended. Would-be investors couldn’t plan with any certainty when they might break ground or put people to work. Unpredictable permitting was costing Texans jobs. But through SB 709, the Legislature addressed that uncertainty while preserving public participation in the permitting process.
A balanced public policy solution by Fraser and state Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, also addressed another area where unpredictable regulations were undermining safe and efficient oil and natural gas production across the state. Carefully crafted energy policy is critical in Texas, where the oil and natural gas industry supports 40 percent of the economy and pays billions of dollars in taxes and royalties each year to directly fund our schools, roads, public services and universities.
House Bill 40 is smart public policy that benefits Texans on multiple fronts by protecting the environment through predictable regulation, respects private property rights and encourages responsible energy production and the jobs that go with it. The new law confirms the state’s regulatory authority over oil and natural gas operations. It also empowers local communities to adopt reasonable regulation of surface-level activity related to oil and gas, while avoiding a patchwork of production regulations that discourage safety, local investment and job growth.
Texans and our economy also got a boost from new sound tax policies. Recognizing their duty to taxpayers who created a surplus, Senate Bill 1, by Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mount and House Bill 32 by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, sent revenue back to taxpayers in the form of broad tax relief that will benefit homeowners and businesses. That kind of taxpayer-first mindset sends a strong message to anyone who has choices about where to put their money: Texas is a smart, safe investment.
Tremendous growth in Texas has created a pinch in some of our state’s critical infrastructure systems. Traffic jams, congestion and roads are in need of repair and create a drag on our economy. Texas lawmakers addressed this situation too, by passing SJR 5 authored by Republican Senate Transportation Chairman state Sen. Robert Nichols, and state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, which creates a permanent, sustainable revenue source for roads — using existing revenue streams — that will give the state the certainty it needs to plan and maintain the transportation projects a growing Texas needs. Texas voters will have the opportunity to approve the constitutional amendment created by SJR 5 in November.
After an intense 140 days in Austin, several new, solid policies are on the books thanks to the work of our Legislature and the leadership of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus. Texans can be proud of our lawmakers’ work to cement our place at the top and to advance our well-earned reputation as a good place to raise a family, run a business and grow jobs.
Todd Staples is president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association.
Read this column as it appeared in the McAllen Monitor.