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Texas at the end of the 20th century


George W. Bush governor
George W. Bush governor

Successive governors—Democrat Ann Richards (1991-1995) and Republican George W. Bush (1995-2000)—pledged to not institute an income tax, and state revenues did not expand. When the state was affluent in the 1970s and 1980s, governors after Connally did not seem concerned about improving the state’s infrastructure and services. They agreed that gradual improvement could take place with expanding revenues. The collapse of the economy left Texas with roads and bridges needing repairs and relatively low salaries for state employees.

In addition, the state was under a court order to improve and modernize state prisons, which had been neglected since 1950. Governor Richards allotted more funds to improve prisons, roads, and bridges, but that decreased money for public and higher education. In the 1990s, Texas voters increased their opposition to taxes and spending for public services.

Beginning in 1989 the state’s economy improved, and lost its reliance on raw materials industries. Service industries, high-tech companies, finance, and trade all prospered in the 1990s. The number of people in trade and trade-related jobs increased, and many areas of Texas benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

This 1994 agreement signed by Canada, the United States, and Mexico called for the gradual removal of tariff and trade barriers. The areas of Texas that benefited were concentrated in the industrial triangle of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Other parts of the state—east Texas, south Texas, and the Panhandle—did not fully recover from the economic collapse and have not received the expected benefits from NAFTA. Areas along the border, in particular, have lost manufacturing and assembly plants to Mexico, and the growth of new service industries has not eased high unemployment. Texas has also continued to lose petroleum-related and defense jobs. In addition, Texas farmers faced drought conditions in the late 1990s. West Texas agriculture was hit hardest by extremely dry weather in 1998, although most other regions of the state were also affected.

Despite these few problem areas, the general economic recovery in Texas since 1989 has attracted new immigration to the state. White immigrants continued to move from the Northern states into Texas, mostly to the suburbs of the large cities in the industrial triangle. These newcomers tended to vote Republican, joining with Republican voters in west Texas to make the Republican Party important in state elections. That growth matched the national trend, and the majority of Texans voted for the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and his running mate, the Texan vice-presidential candidate, George Bush, in the 1984 and 1988 presidential elections. Bush’s son, George W. Bush, was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998. When Bush was elected president of the United States in 2000, he resigned the governorship, and Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry, also a Republican, became governor. As Republicans made strong gains in the state legislature and county elections, Texas was changing from a largely Democratic state to a largely Republican one, and Texas Republicans usually represented the most conservative wing of the national Republican Party. Texas’s population grew by 1.5 million in the early 1990s, making the state the second largest in the country—after California. In the 1980s and 1990s the largest immigrant group came from south of the U.S. border, mostly from Mexico, but also from other Latin American countries. Mexican immigration to Texas, both legal and illegal, has made Hispanics the largest minority in the state.

An increase in the Asian population, primarily from the countries of Southeast Asia, began in the 1980s and continued into the next century. The new immigrants tended to join black Texans in the inner cities, or settle in the Río Grande Valley, south of San Antonio. They usually voted Democratic and had a much lower income level than whites who lived in suburbs. Texas thus confronted the problem, as did the nation, of politically powerful and affluent suburbs that surround poor cities whose inhabitants have been historically disenchanted with the political process.

With the rapid population growth of the 1990s and early 2000s, anti-immigration sentiment rose and brought calls for immigration reform and for enforcement of laws against illegal immigration. Some anti-immigration groups in Texas proposed legislation that would cut off government services to illegal immigrants and even to their children born in the United States. Many businesses, on the other hand, welcomed the supply of low-cost labor and opposed legislation that might cut off that supply or hold them culpable for hiring undocumented immigrants. "Texas" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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