In the next month or so, the world is going to hear a lot about Texas 2036. We’ll unveil some key players (and familiar faces) in the organization, relaunch a new website, and play a big role in the Texas Tribune Festival. It’s an exciting time.
But first, introductions may be in order. We want more Texans to understand what we’re doing, what we want to accomplish and how we’re going about it. We want you on board with our mission, because the things we’re talking about matter to all of us.
We take our name from the upcoming year of Texas’ bicentennial. We want it to be clear that we are focused on the future — on opportunities arising and challenges looming.
There’s no question that the Texas of today is an economic powerhouse. Employers in our state create jobs at a dizzying pace. We export more products than any other state, and our Gross State Product is $1.7 trillion. We are home to Fortune 500 companies, world-class universities, world-famous artists, and some of the best food anyone’s ever tasted.
The thing is, you know all of this, because there’s no shortage of proud talk about what our state has accomplished. There’s far less conversation about the challenges we face — the challenges that, in large part, will determine what “Texas” will mean in the future.
As is so often the case, the work begins in our classrooms. Our student enrollment is growing fast — especially among students from low-income families. There’s also a major gap between the demands of our economy and the outcomes of our education system: Most jobs that will be created in coming years will require some type of college completion, but only 62 percent of the students in our public four-year colleges, and 37 percent of the students in our public two-year colleges, earn degrees within six years.
If Texans don’t have the right skills and education to fill high-demand jobs, then those jobs will be less likely to come here.
Consistent population growth has put other challenges on our plate as well:
- Commuting costs are on the rise: Congestion costs the average Texas commuter in urban areas $981 per year.
- Our health care system is strained: The average annual growth in health care expenditures in Texas is 6.9 percent, yet Texas ranks among the bottom half of states in key health measures such as diabetes, cardiovascular deaths, child immunizations, and maternal mortality.
- Our infrastructure is aging: Texas has $8.8 billion in drinking water needs and $11.8 billion in wastewater funding needs, without an adequate roadmap fo addressing them.
These issues don’t make great bumper stickers or viral videos. But what we do — and don’t do — about them will define our future. Texas 2036 is here to put a spotlight on our challenges and then rally the people of this wonderfully diverse, dynamic state to tackle them.
We are playing the long game. We want to break through short-term thinking and the political crisis of the moment, and to engage Texans in a fuller conversation about what we want Texas to be.
We are going to continue sharing data that illustrates where we are, where we need to go, and how we can get there. We’re looking forward to the conversation. And for the good of our state, we hope you will be part of it.