A Letter to Texans
Dear Fellow Texan –
Texas is special, a place like no other. It is a land of epic proportions and extreme contrasts. A land hemmed by mountains and deserts, forests and plains, and rivers and a sea. Of blizzards and heat, rain and drought, unique unto itself.
Texans are special, too — characterized throughout a rich history by an independent, pragmatic, persistent, and generous attitude, and a confidence in themselves and what they can accomplish. We are adaptable, willing to rise together to confront a challenge, and united in our sense of Texas pride. This is as evident today as it has ever been as we tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Generations of Texans have shared a sincere optimism that Texas' future will be even brighter than its past, a faith that has drawn millions of people to our state. As we work to recover from the coronavirus, we must not ignore the challenges and acute disparities this pandemic has surfaced. We must face them head-on and develop innovative new ways to solve them.
For Texas to be the best place to live and work for the next generation of Texans and generations after them, we need to come together, think strategically and find the right solutions for the Lone Star State.
In 2036, Texas will celebrate its bicentennial: 200 years of growth, change, perseverance through adversity, and achievement, the likes of which has rarely been seen. By then, nearly 10 million more people will call Texas home.
As we look to Texas' third century, it’s time to take stock of where we have been as a state, where we are today, and where we want to go in the future.
Texas 2036 is a non-profit organization, led by a diverse, statewide, bipartisan board. It was born out of a love for Texas and a recognition that long-term, data-driven strategies and an ongoing vigilance are required to ensure we enjoy a future that sustains and expands opportunity for all Texans. Smart strategies and systematic changes represent an essential foundation for that future.
This is why Texas 2036 has been building a case for action, amassing and contextualizing hundreds of data sets that show where Texas is today on different policy areas at the state and county level, and where we are heading.
Generations of Texans before us took deliberate and difficult steps to ensure the prosperity and quality of life many of us enjoy today. Now, we must look ahead to what the future could be, build upon our legacy of success, and overcome challenges that lie beyond the horizon.
As the COVID-19 outbreak shows, past prosperity can be derailed by out-of-control events. Texas' vast resources, optimistic spirit, and growing, diverse population represent significant opportunity for the 38 million expected to live here by 2036. These Texans will tend to be younger and more diverse than Texans today, and accommodating them all will challenge our state’s infrastructure and services, especially because this growth will not be uniform – it will likely be concentrated in major urban areas.
The challenges will be many. Texas has struggled to effectively educate all students so they can actively participate in an increasingly modern economy. Health expenditures are ballooning, while Texas ranks in the bottom half of U.S. states on many health measures. We must prepare for a radical shift in how people and goods are moved, as alternative types of mobility become commonplace. We must ensure responsible use of our natural resources and balance economic value with stewardship for future generations. We must better protect our most vulnerable populations. And we must think differently about how this $250 billion enterprise we call the State of Texas best allocates resources to provide the greatest opportunity for the greatest number of Texans.
Texas 2036 isn’t focused on solving problems overnight or only getting through the political crisis of the moment. Instead, we are looking further down the field to help Texas leaders and the public think about the challenges that Texans will confront down the line – beyond the tyranny of the urgent.
In pursuit of a vibrant future for Texas, we offer this Strategic Framework. It is rooted in a commitment to tackle the most pressing issues our state faces in the best way we know how: the “Texas way.” We take pride in our state’s business-friendly climate and competitive tax structure. We cherish individuals’ rights, responsibilities, independence, and autonomy. We believe the private, public, and philanthropic sectors must all work together to make Texas better — we do not and cannot look to our government to do it all.
We believe that policy solutions work best when state and local governments are pulling in the same direction, when top-down meets bottom-up. We believe in facts over ideology, action over accusation, solutions over stalemates.
The Texas 2036 Strategic Framework is the result of more than two years of research and analysis, focusing on the most important issues facing the state – issues that will shape Texas’ future quality of life and shared economic prosperity. The Framework articulates a vision for the future of Texas. This vision is built on seven policy pillars representing the most significant drivers of Texans’ quality of life: prosperity and well-being, education and workforce, health, infrastructure, natural resources, justice and safety, and government performance.
In this Framework, we lay out 36 ambitious but achievable goals across these pillars, and we undergird them with more than 160 indicators that can help evaluate Texas' progress toward these goals.
Collectively, the goals represent an interconnected set of priorities that can guide the way forward. This wide-lens perspective sets Texas 2036 apart as an organization. We are not focused on a single issue or silo, but rather on looking at the numerous interconnections between policy areas. By taking a long-term, disciplined approach to policy change, we believe Texas can achieve systemic meaningful outcomes across these areas.
In short, we want Texans to use this Framework to think long-term about the critical issues facing our urban and rural communities, and options for addressing challenges in ways that will extend prosperity in communities across the state well into the future.
Commitment to Data
The numerous, detailed indicators described in this Framework speak to the very heart of Texas 2036. We are informed by the facts — we do not shirk from what the data tells us. Texas 2036 has assembled hundreds of datasets to shape this work, and this fealty to data is an important differentiator for it.
Comprehensive and relevant data can break down divisions to unify Texans seeking pragmatic solutions. Today, Texans have sufficient data to help us plan for the future. In coming years, we will work with state and local governments and other stakeholders to improve the quality of data available for policymakers, ensuring decisions are being made with the most meaningful and telling information.
Our commitment to data also led us to develop a set of peer states against which Texas can compare itself. This cohort serves as a barometer of Texas' standing and progress, setting out an assessment of how we are faring against those states with which we most often compete for business and talent.
Texas 2036’s mission is to enable Texans to make fact-driven decisions through accessible data, long-term strategic policy planning, and statewide engagement — all to ensure Texans’ wellbeing and economic prosperity through our bicentennial and beyond. So, Texas 2036 has invested much research, data analysis, input from experts, constructive criticism, and healthy debate into the development of this Framework.
This document should not remain static. Rather, we see the Framework as the starting point for a robust conversation across Texas about the future of our great state.
We are eager to hear from you, our fellow Texans, about how we can strengthen our work and partner together to help create a better future for Texas. And given that the vast majority of work and analysis in this Framework was completed before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, updates and reassessments will be necessary to reflect the rapid changes that have occurred over the last few months.
A document of this scope would not have been possible without the contributions and collaboration of many people across the state and nation. First and foremost, Texas 2036 would like to thank our financial supporters, many of whom have championed our efforts from the very beginning, for making this work possible. We are grateful for their generosity and for their ongoing commitment to the state's long-term wellbeing.
Texas 2036 would also like to thank the numerous consultants, experts, members of the Texas 2036 policy advisory committees, and state and business leaders who engaged with Texas 2036 during the development of this report, in particular the Boston Consulting Group for their contributions to the Framework's structure, peer states, goals, and indicators.
The Future is Bright
Our vision is that Texas is a land of opportunity, prosperity and wellbeing for all generations of Texans. We present this Strategic Framework to help shape this bright future. We know this goal and this work are bold and audacious, but if anyone can do it, Texans can. We have resources, time, pragmatic policymakers, a vibrant business sector, a generous philanthropic community, and tremendous size, scale, and location on our side. And, most importantly, we have each other — Texans intent on leaving Texas better than they found it for those who will come after them.
We hope this Framework will spur the right conversations about what matters the most to Texans. This is where you come in. We hope you see the importance of these future-focused, data-driven efforts to ensure Texas is the best place to live and work, and we hope you add to this coalition of Texans that, just like our state, is large and diverse. We encourage you to join us by reaching out to our team, visiting www.texas2036.org, and following us on social media. Please be part of this critical conversation about what’s next for Texas.
Let’s get to work.