Latest Columns

NAFTA is out of date. USMCA should be approved quickly.

From agriculture to manufacturing, Texas’ economic success depends on trade with international partners. Mexico and Canada are the state’s largest international trade partners, and the digital trade provisions in USMCA will help give the Texas economy a strong boost as we venture further into the 21st century. 

Let’s make Texas the ‘third coast’ for biotech

Texas has made a name for itself in biotech by supporting premier academic medical centers, attracting research funding and welcoming investment by major pharmaceutical companies. Now it is time to take the next step with a smart state investment in biomedical research, paving the way for Texas to become a major hub in the vibrant biotechnology industry.

When water is scarce, prices should go up

In order to head off future water crises like the recent one in Austin, we must put in place a system that allows the price of water usage to move with its current value. We already charge heavy users more per gallon than light users, and we need to allow the price, at least for the heavy users, to adjust as supplies diminish.

Texas, Mexico and the reality of economic partnership

The rhetoric of fear threatens to reverse the long-standing, successful economic relationship between Texas and Mexico. With intertwined economies skyrocketing since the 1994 enactment of NAFTA, a strong border relationship between Texas and Mexico has resulted in five million American jobs and a Texas surplus in trade for goods and services with Mexico.

Include business in the property tax debate

Property tax reform has been the topic of much debate and proposed legislation. We believe the answer is not as simple as a one-size-fits-all cap on tax rate increases or revenue, mandatory rollback elections, or a sole focus on homeowner property tax to exclusion of all other tax policy.

Free trade supports the American economy and ingenuity

American citizens have a lot to lose if the U.S. withdraws from NAFTA. Instead, we must strive to strengthen and modernize this important agreement. Free trade has been a cornerstone of our economy’s success, and it is a philosophy that has proven time and again to be beneficial to our country and broader region. We would be wise to remember that.

Why the AT&T/Time Warner merger is bad for Texas consumers

Monopoly power has a major impact on our political and personal freedom. Simply put, mega-corporations have too much political power because they have too much economic power, which they use — via donations and lobbying efforts — to get the attention of policymakers while drowning out the voices of individual people.

Requiring work for welfare moves Texans out of dependency

Federal policymakers and lawmakers in other states should follow Texas’ lead by making work requirements mandatory for all able-bodied adults on welfare and refocusing training programs to have a work-first culture. Only then will America be able to move millions of people off the sidelines, out of dependency, and back to work.

Paid sick leave will hurt the most vulnerable

Austin's recently passed ordinance requiring paid sick leave adds one more layer of difficulty for small- and medium-sized businesses. In a growing city with a young population, the creation and expansion of new, interesting, and innovative firms and even industries play an essential role in providing the needed job opportunities and services. Taking away the flexibility of such firms to determine their own mix of compensation when competing for workers inhibits this type of growth.

NAFTA is not a “bad deal,” it is simply an old one

On the campaign trail and throughout his first year in office, President Trump repeatedly said the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a “bad deal” for the United States. As America’s largest exporter, Texas knows that NAFTA — America’s most valuable free trade agreement — is not a bad deal, it is simply an out¬dated deal. Undoing it would jeopardize nearly one million Texas jobs and the loss of billions of dollars in economic production.

A promise to keep Texas ahead

Texas has the edge – more than a quarter of all U.S. jobs created since the Great Recession have been created in Texas. But other states are catching on – and catching up. So how can Texas keep its lead?

Changing NAFTA is a good idea. Ditching it isn’t.

Texans should stand against any efforts that would cripple our thriving trade with Mexico. Mexico is not only a great trade partner but a friend that helps enrich the lives of Texans in many other ways. NAFTA has been good for the state for over two decades and will continue to be positive for us in the years and decades ahead.

Texas should push back against D.C. net grab

The internet is part of everyone’s modern life, whether it be through handling regular business or finances, kids accessing their homework, or connecting via social media. Which is why the regulation of the internet was handled in its inception the same way Texas regulates much of the electricity industry today.

It’s time to address the “invisible” problem of youth homelessness

Youth homelessness is a serious problem in Texas, affecting urban and rural communities alike. The state’s failure to prevent it, or aid those experiencing homelessness, often leads to unnecessary and costly consequences, including academic failure and dropout, criminal or juvenile justice system involvement, foster care involvement and physical and mental health challenges.

Loyalty to country and party in tax reform

How disheartening it is for an old Marine to see this seeming lack of loyalty to our country in the passage of recent tax bills. Loyalty to party seems to prevail over consideration of our nation’s best interest. Congress should observe priorities and loyalties to country and to political party, in that order.

Laws restricting short-term rentals protect our quality of life

I call it the hotel next door, the place a vacationer reviewed on an STR site as “a great spot for a larger party of guys or girls looking to party and have some fun.” On this particular Saturday morning, that meant eight men lining up red Solo cups of beer and hollering as they tried to land a ping pong ball in them.

To support business, reduce government bribes

Offering businesses incentives to relocate, expand, build a new facility or otherwise contribute to a local economy is increasingly standard practice and big business. In 2014 such incentives and tax breaks cost taxpayers over $80 billion — about 7 percent of local and state budgets. But the price of these incentives is even heavier than it initially looks.

Texas model supports miraculous prosperity

There’s certainly room for improvement in Texas — the state should expand education freedom and structurally reform property taxes, for example — but overall the American Dream is alive and well here. Before people write-off the Texas model as some miracle based on oil and gas activity, they should do their homework.

A taxing aftermath to Hurricane Harvey

Houston has long been a powerful engine in the American economy. The city has paid its dues to the nation and the state. The mayor and other civic leaders should press hard on federal and state officials – not battered property owners – to fund the cleanup of a city that contributes massively to America’s and Texas’ economic vitality.  

New tools to stop elder financial abuse

The Elder Financial Protection Law, which takes effect in September, sets new standards to combat financial scams and abuse. It enables others, including financial advisors, to step forward to protect seniors when they see something is amiss.

Special legislative session breathes new life into property tax relief

The truth of the matter is that cities like Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio benefit from Texas’ burdensome property tax code. While businesses, particularly commercial property owners, have watched their property valuations skyrocket over the past few years, municipalities are cashing in on the record high taxes being collected on Texas properties.

Stronger EB-5 rules are crucial to keep foreign investment coming to Texas

In Texas, “foreign direct investment” programs are growing because of our globally competitive business climate. EB-5, which has proven especially beneficial for Texas, eases the pathway to U.S. residency for foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in businesses that create no fewer than 10 U.S. jobs. The U.S. Commerce Department says that in fiscal year 2013, the program generated more than $5.8 billion in foreign investment to 562 projects nationwide, creating more than 174,000 jobs.

Casting Call for Houston's Creative Economy

Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, has been ranked the most diverse metropolitan area in the nation, supplanting both New York and Los Angeles in the number, variety and size of ethnic communities that call it home. It hosts not only world-class companies in all of the performing arts, but has more Fortune 500 headquarters than any city other than New York.

House/Senate compromise could be a win-win for taxpayers

While the Legislature imposes a number of taxes — sales, franchise, severance, etc. — the property tax isn’t one of them. The multitude of local governments that levy the property tax include school districts, cities, counties and a plethora of special districts such as junior colleges, hospitals, roads and water and wastewater districts. However, the Legislature can have a tremendous impact on your tax bill because it writes the laws that control how local entities set their property taxes.

Say yes to communities, no to cuts

We understand the value in operating in a sustainable matter — it is a core principal of Austin Habitat for Humanity. We teach our partner families the importance of creating and maintaining budgets. We are supportive of the effort to do the same on a federal level — but cutting vitally important programs that support hard-working families and revitalize disenfranchised communities is not how we strengthen our nation. It’s quite the opposite: a surefire way to weaken it.

Discrimination has no place in Texas

Simply put, I believe bathroom legislation is bad for our employees and bad for business. It is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Rather than sending a message that Texas has a diverse and inclusive business environment, this type of legislation demonstrates that discrimination is welcome in our state. Texas should not follow the example of North Carolina, which has lost billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and devolved into political dysfunction as lawmakers pushed similar legislation.

Reagan might oppose Trump's tax guidelines

Reinventing the wheel on tax reform can be avoided by President Trump if the same tax rates are applied to small business income, dividends, and capital gains. President Reagan and Congress already provided a good blueprint with the research, thought, and compromise that accompanied passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

When it comes to barbecue, trust but verify

The Texas Legislature has decided that everyone that runs a barbecue joint is as honest as the day is long, that they’re so trustworthy they should be exempted from consumer protection laws. Horse hockey. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” I trust my local barbecue guy, but I still want to see that when I buy a pound of sausage I’m getting a pound of sausage.

A regulation that would be a disaster for Austin and the rest of Texas

The Texas Legislature is close to a finish on House Bill 100, a bill that purports to streamline the operations of Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Fasten, Uber and Lyft. In reality, it will do three no good, horrible, very bad things: putting the safety of every ride hailing customer in the state at risk, enabling discrimination and weakening the sovereignty of cities across the state.

A level playing field for Texas homeowners

The Texas Legislature is considering a statewide bill that would bring fairness to short-term residential rentals in Texas — by creating a consistent regulatory playing field for short-term rentals, ensuring all Texans have the opportunity to participate in this dynamic market.

Why the Texas Legislature should protect STRs

Bans on home sharing deprive people of their fundamental right to enjoy their property, consistent with the rights of other homeowners. Texas can protect quiet, clean and safe neighborhoods while respecting property rights and encouraging economic opportunity.

Patchwork governance strangling innovation and investment

Lawmakers understand that we must evolve beyond an antiquated, city-by-city regulatory structure that threatens to deny consumer choices, drive investment elsewhere and leave Texas behind the curve. And yet, cities are fighting bills related to the ride-sharing options and communications infrastructure Texans want and need.

Direct auto sales: A liberty-minded solution

In our state, if you want to buy a brand new car, you only have one option — a franchised auto dealer. But consumer tastes have evolved since auto-dealer laws were put in place. Just as many of us would rather order groceries and household goods online than go to a brick-and-mortar store, some of us want to choose how to purchase our vehicles — and we should have the freedom to do so.

A public benefit for corporations that give back

At a time when a constrained state budget will undoubtedly leave many needs within our communities unmet, Texas should — at minimum — facilitate opportunities for private investment in the greater good. Legislation enabling B-Corps this session would help the private sector invest in the growing needs of our state now, while simultaneously meeting today's dynamic market demands. 

Original intent and the Texas Rainy Day Fund

The reason we created the fund was to flatten out the available revenue stream from the up-and-down swings of the economy so that constant levels of services could be provided, including covering higher costs as those needing or qualifying for government services increase.

Texas, don't make the mistake North Carolina made

As a member of the North Carolina General Assembly who has watched the HB2 trainwreck up close for the last year, here’s some advice to my Texas counterparts: When it comes to state-sanctioned discrimination, let North Carolina remain the Lone Star State — for now.

Bring Rate Competition to Title Insurance

Despite our free-enterprise culture, there are pockets of anti-competitive behavior where government regulation and edict rule the day, harming consumers with a 19th century regulatory model. One such industry that fits that description is title insurance.

Texas should challenge the movement to boycott Israel

A strong Israeli economy backed by a thriving Texas market provides Palestinians the potential for greater self-sufficiency through gains in financial independence and economic solvency. And continued collaboration with Israel by Texans will not only benefit consumers, employers and economy of Texas, it promotes regional stability through economic interdependence.

Hiring veterans boosts Central Texas businesses

Central Texas is a growing hub for technology and innovation, and the concentration of current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces in our region is a major asset for the businesses and communities that are key to this economic dynamism.

We need to keep North America working

Many voices are calling for the United States to retrench and retreat from the world, including distancing ourselves from neighbors in North America. Yet the reality of life across Mexico, Canada and the United States shows that we are connected to our neighbors in ways that benefit all of us.

How overtime pay changes could affect Texas employers

The Department of Labor’s impending proposal to dramatically change the cost of overtime pay exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act may force Texas employers to increase pay to an estimated 400,000 employees if the proposal is finalized without changes. How can employers comply with these changes?

Quarterly revenue forecasts make sense for Texas

Requiring the Comptroller's Office to update the state's revenue forecast every three months would be a tremendous improvement over the ancient method of predicting revenues at the start of each legislative session, baking a two-year budget around the numbers — and then not revising the forecast until after the governor has signed the budget and lawmakers have gone home.

Slowing Texas economy underscores need for property tax reform

The Lone Star State’s labor market woes are a good reminder that, especially in today’s topsy-turvy world, Texas needs the right policy prescriptions in place to have the best chance at economic success. And while Texas has done well in the past to enact pro-growth policies, there is still room for improvement — especially when it comes to reforming the state’s onerous property tax.

How to accelerate the Texas economy

Lawmakers have found more funding for our roads and highways, but it’s not enough. A temporary gas tax increase pegged to the price at the pump would fill that hole — and help put laid-off Texans back to work.

Texas' economic segregation crisis

Texas' major metro regions are now among the most economically segregated parts of the country. It will take a new generation of policies to make sure that all Texans have a true shot at success.

2015: An agenda for business

Only when Texans succeed will business be able to succeed. And now, thanks to plunging oil prices, we'll have to work hard to ensure that initiatives that will benefit all Texans are funded.

Memo to Texas cities: Adapt or fail

The state's law that bans Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers makes no sense. Texas cities must find smart ways to remove obstacles that hinder innovations in business like Uber and Google Fiber.