Texas has no income tax, ranks 46th overall for the taxes it collects per capita and has the strongest job growth in the country. The state has accounted for between 30 percent and half of the net new jobs in the country in the past two years, depending on who is counting.
While Obama points to his universal health care law as a historic achievement, Texas is often cited as an example of the need for health-care reform: A quarter of Texans lack coverage, the highest share in the country.
While Obama seeks to increase federal funding for education, Texas ranks 47th in the country for the level of state spending on schools. And while the Obama administration clamps down on pollution, Texas ranks highest in the country for the levels of toxic chemicals released into the water and carcinogens released into the air, according to Scorecard, an organization that tracks nationwide pollution data.
The contrast with Obama — and GOP rival Mitt Romney — extends beyond policy, to Perry’s profile as a swashbuckling former Air Force pilot from Paint Creek in West Texas.
At 61, Perry is a gun enthusiast who carries a weapon when he goes jogging (and once shot a coyote on the trail). For 11 years, the longest tenure of any Texas governor, he has unapologetically presided over the most active death-penalty regime in the country.
Last weekend he hosted a prayer session in a Houston stadium over protests from critics who said it breached the barrier between church and state.
Perry not only defends the Texas approach but has taken the lead in resisting the Obama administration’s activism on health care, education and the environment, going so far as to raise the specter of secession from the union.
“On the one side you have the Washington way of doing things — big spending and the idea that the heavy hand of government has to be present in economic life,” said Joshua Trevino of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. “And on the other hand is the model of very limited government and explicitly low taxes. That is such a stark contrast.”
Garnet Coleman, a Democratic state legislator from Houston, sees the contrast from the other side. The Texas approach, he said, is “that you can step on the feet and hands and neck of your citizens and still make people rich and have low taxes. This is the new model and Perry is saying [to the rest of the country], ‘let me show you how to do this.’ ”
Perry is eager to set the two models side by side. “If you want to just get down to the pure epicenter, the nucleus of the problem in Washington, D.C., is they’re spending too much money,” he said in an interview with Time magazine this week. The Texas alternative, he said, is to “have a tax structure that’s fair, and as low as you can have it, and still deliver the services that the people require.”