Texas Border Business
By GEORGE P. BUSH
For all the challenges facing Texans, our State government serves the people pretty darned well, especially when compared to the frequent dysfunction in Washington.
Having just finished eight years in statewide elected office as Texas Land Commissioner, I can share the “secret sauce” that makes Texas work: relationships. State government is a lot like a small town in rural Texas where folks know one another, which creates incentives to work through problems and reach solutions that serve the public.
As a result, the future of Texas is bright, a shining example for the rest of the country of what can be accomplished when elected officials and staff seek to make government “do more with less.” As we say in Texas, “it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true” applies to our approach to governing—we are the gold standard as to how government, from your local school board to Congress, can serve the people.
This is a big reason people – nearly 500,000 just last year – are moving from everywhere to live in Texas. When our oil and gas industry hit rock bottom during the pandemic, Texas leaders in the industry and government joined together to creatively stabilize prices by incentivizing temporary reductions in production and help businesses keep workers on their payroll. Working with the Railroad Commission, the General Land Office eliminated impediments to increase land leases and took on the weaponization of the Endangered Species Act to boost oil and gas production and increase revenues that fund our children’s education.
In 2017, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I worked with Governor Greg Abbott to lead the largest housing mission in American history, effectively managing a $10 billion federal grant to build or rebuild thousands of homes for displaced Texans. We worked with our local and state elected officials along the coast to ensure Texans recovered as quickly as possible. Our success in building back Texas is now the model for disaster recovery and prudent management of federal taxpayer dollars.
I worked with Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, the Texas Delegation in Congress, and coastal leaders from Port Arthur to Brownsville to complete the Texas Coastal plan, which will reduce coastal damage from storm surges, save lives and property and restore the ecosystem. This is the first-ever plan to protect the entire Texas coast which in turn was authorized by Congress in December.
Working closely with U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Senator Ted Cruz, I was able to get the first part of this coastal plan funded, including a $4 billion appropriation by Congress and another $200 million from the Texas Legislature.
The message is that Texas is invested in protecting its citizens and critical maritime trade corridors including Beaumont/Port Arthur and the Houston Ship Channel.
In Texas, we depend on relationships to accomplish bold and audacious goals. With the Alamo needing much needed repairs from the ravages of time—I partnered with the Texas Legislature, the city of San Antonio, Bexar County, and private citizens from all walks of life to create and implement the 1836 plan. Together, we were able to obtain almost $200 million in appropriations for the Alamo. The goal of the plan is to restore the original fort and preserve the Alamo for future generations of Texans.
My time as Land Commissioner is at an end, but working to bring this message of consensus, partnership, and ethical government for the people doesn’t end here. This nation needs leaders, in and out of government. Challenges in Texas impact the nation at large—after all—everything is bigger in Texas. As part of the Michael Best team, I’m excited to work on behalf of clients navigating the implications of federal and state-level policy decisions and the complex legal challenges that impact their growth prospects.
So, to those who, when looking with despair at Washington or governments outside our shores, wonder if common-sense policymaking is still possible, I invite them to look to the Lone Star State as an example of what happens when our leaders work together to give citizens the freedom to choose their dreams and the resources to make those dreams a reality.
George P. Bush is the former Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office and currently serves as a Partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP and as a Principal at Michael Best Strategies LLC.