Other Voices

Texas faces big challenges with growth, jobs, traffic. Here’s how we can get ready

Fort Worth just keeps growing. It’s now the 15th-largest city in the U.S.
Fort Worth just keeps growing. It’s now the 15th-largest city in the U.S. Star-Telegram

Texas is a success story because Texans are never satisfied and always ready for what is next. Our innovation and focus created a robust economy, making Texas an inviting place for business and families alike to come, grow and pursue opportunity.

But a glance at the future reveals challenges that come with success: More students who need a good education, more cars and trucks on our roads, more demands on our health-care system and water supply. These are complex, lasting challenges — not easily solved within a political system driven by the tyranny of the urgent or the crisis du jour.

To write Texas’ success story into the future, our state needs a laser-like focus on what that future will demand. And that’s why Texas 2036 is here. Born from the guiding vision of Tom Luce, one of Texas’ most thoughtful and accomplished leaders, our organization is pursuing long-term, data-driven research and strategies to secure Texas’ continued prosperity.

Tom created Texas 2036 with the state’s future — and especially its bicentennial in 17 years — as our focus. We believe Texas leaders should make decisions based on credible data and research. We also believe Texas needs a results-oriented approach to policymaking driven by facts and analysis instead of short-term politics.

Our team assembled data and research showing where we stand on key metrics and how far we need to go:

  • Our population will grow by 10 million people in less than two decades.
  • There is a wide gap between the number of Texans who have a two- or four-year degree and the number needed to fulfill modern job requirements.
  • Texans are spending more time on the road due to increasing urban congestion.
  • If a drought of record hit today, Texas would not be able to meet about one quarter of our water needs.
  • Texans face an almost 7 percent increase in health-care costs every year, while outcomes are not improving at the same pace.
  • Broadband access — a fact of life in Texas cities — remains out of reach in huge swaths of rural areas.

With this foundation in place, Texas 2036 will soon announce new members of our board of directors. We will share data resources that should help Texans engage in discussions about what matters to our future. And on Saturday, we will host a series of free public discussions on Congress Avenue in Austin as part of the Texas Tribune Festival.

But our work will succeed only if it brings more Texans into the process, whether you are a Texan by birth or you got here as soon as you could. Welcoming newcomers has made Texas more successful, and future Texans will have much to contribute.

We need to hear from Texas’ diverse voices — people driven not by the next election or political winds, but by the long-term interests of their fellow Texans. Our state needs a large, durable constituency to be a constant amid population growth and public opinion polls — demanding that public officials take action on longer-term goals, and then supporting them when they do.

We encourage you to join us by visiting www.texas2036.org, texting JOINTX to 52886, and following us on social @Texas2036.

Margaret Spellings is president and CEO of Texas 2036. She is a former U.S. secretary of education.
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