It’s hard to tell whether state Sen. Konni Burton has actually examined the reasons for the booming Texas economy, or if she is just following the mandates of those who lavishly fund her campaigns.
On a visit to the Star-Telegram Editorial Board last week, Burton tried to explain why she wants to kill off economic development incentives to businesses investing in local communities across the state.
Asked repeatedly what was wrong with cities providing those job-creating inducements when they get back more than they invested, she never managed a coherent answer.
Instead she reacted with worn-out platitudes of “free markets” and nonsense about picking winners and losers.
Pointing out how Facebook turned cattle ranchland into a billion-dollar data center bringing more than 150 jobs to Fort Worth, Burton’s response to why she opposed the city’s aggressive efforts to incentivize the company’s decision was a nervous laugh.
In addition to the jobs, direct revenues into the city’s treasury will amount to more than $2.4 million annually — the cattle ranch was producing all of $2,720 every year.
Her complaint is that cities should not give what she calls “taxpayers’ dollars” to lure corporate entities.
The reality is those incentives of delaying some property taxes for a limited time don’t come from the pockets of other taxpayers.
Without the tax break, the company winds up somewhere else, and the city gets zero new tax dollars and zero new jobs.
Burton complains that companies bargain with state and local governments in competition to land them. It’s how it works, and those cities that choose not to participate may do so by staying on the sidelines.
If Burton were to have her way, the option to pursue corporate America with incentives would be lost. Other states around the country would then have reason to celebrate — losing Texas as a competitor ups their chances for economic success.
A lesson for her is available from a role model of a Republican predecessor occupying her seat in the Texas Senate.
Sen. Kim Brimer was the principal author of the legislation that allowed the people of Arlington, after voting a 30-point margin of approval for a new ballpark, to have their way in keeping the Texas Rangers baseball team in town.
That measure won the unanimous vote in both the House and the Senate and the signature of the governor. It’s apparent from her steadfast opposition to public-private partnerships that Burton would not have done what Brimer did.
If that had happened, it’s likely that the entire course of Arlington’s history for the past 25 years would have suffered from such a loss and killed off the growth of tourism — the city’s most productive economic activity.
To look for an explanation of why Burton is such an opponent of local governments’ statutory rights to do what their citizens want them to do, maybe the source of her campaign money provides the answer.
One analysis reveals that as much as 80 percent of her dollars come from donors outside her Senate district.
The preponderance of her funding can be traced to the statist organization Empower Texans and its big-money benefactors who sponsor the notion that we would all be better off if all the power were centered in Austin instead of our own hometown communities.
We need legislators who will recognize the state’s limited role in our lives and leave local issues where they belong — in the hands of the people.
Burton has no Republican primary opponent. She does face a challenge in the November election.
If her rival can raise enough money to offset Burton’s largesse from those foreign funders, maybe she can be convinced that true conservatism champions local control.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.