Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Governor Greg Abbott: Overregulation Makes Texas Dream A California Nightmare

AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott wrote an Austin American-Statesman yesterday voicing his opposition to runaway regulations by cities that infringe upon the individual liberty of Texans.
By Gov. Greg Abbott
Op-ed featured in the Austin American-Statesman

Runaway regulations by cities are already hitting your wallet and threaten to turn the Texas dream into a California nightmare.

Today’s reality is that more Texans are working than ever before. With our strong economy, overall lower costs of living and high quality of life, Texas remains the best place to raise a family, build a business and create greater opportunity for all.

But that promise is in peril.

While we rightly rail against overreach by the federal government — like the previous administration’s attempt to take away rights from Texas landowners by regulating ponds and ditches on private land — local municipalities are increasingly infringing on private property rights and driving up costs for homeowners, renters and job-creating businesses alike.

The cost of homeownership has increased rapidly as Texas home prices are at record highs, which is driven in part by demand but also by successive layers of regulations, land-use restrictions, impact fees and general micromanagement by permitting authorities. This hyperregulation adds costs and prices more families out of the home-buying market. The National Association of Homebuilders estimates that regulations imposed by government at all levels account for almost 25 percent of the final price of the average new single-family home.

The dream of homeownership is being regulated into oblivion. Impervious cover requirements, building envelopes, tree ordinances and other restrictions increasingly diminish the permissible use of your land. It’s no surprise then that a study commissioned by the city of Austin showed 82 percent of people who went through the building planning and review process found it unnecessarily cumbersome or complex.

Continuing business and commercial property investments are also at risk because of ever-changing property development rules. For example, the developer of a planned multimillion-dollar high-rise that was designed after years of study and meets all current requirements could be forced to pull out of the downtown Austin project. Added sightline restrictions now under consideration by the city would limit the building’s height to just four stories, drastically diminishing the market value and expected use of the property — and pulling the proverbial rug out from under the property owners.

To keep the Texas dream within reach of more families, my goal as governor is to get government out of the way. That’s why we are reducing and restraining burdensome regulations at the state level that hinder job creation and economic growth. But we must do more.

During the special session this summer, I am directing the Texas Legislature to enact critical reforms to restrict local government hyperregulations that micromanage businesses, threaten private property rights and hurt housing affordability and job creation.

Expedited permitting for building projects should be the standard in all of Texas. Permit delays by local governments add costs that are passed on to the homeowner, business or eventual tenant by the contractors and developers — who must pay employees and loan fees whether a project is moving forward or not. In California, permit approvals can take up to eight months. We don’t want to be California. I applaud Sen. Konni Burton and Rep. Paul Workman for authoring legislation to ensure efficiency and consistency with smart permitting reforms.

Even a five-year-old knows you can’t change the rules in the middle of a “Monopoly” game. Local governments should not be able to take away property rights by changing the rules after you’ve acquired the property. I thank Sen. Dawn Buckingham and Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. for their commitment to common-sense legislation that protects property owners by grandfathering the property rights bargained for when the land was acquired.

Finally, in Texas of all places, property owners should control the natural resources on their land. Though well intentioned, tree ordinances are an uncompensated taking of private property by local governments in violation of the Texas Constitution. Tree mitigation fees charged by cities add to already increasing housing costs. I appreciate the leadership of Sen. Bob Hall and Rep. Paul Workman in authoring legislation to prevent cities from regulating trees on private land.

By halting hyperregulation by cities, the Texas Legislature will help to unleash growth, preserve essential property rights and keep the Texas dream within reach for more families.