Ronald Reagan said once, “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

Update that for modern times as: If it breathes, tax it. If it moves, tax it. If it dies, tax it.

Sometimes it seems that is the governing impulse of so many of our fellow states, from coast to coast. The imperative is to pay for an ever-expanding government that promises to carry us from cradle to grave, so long as it can tax us from womb to tomb.

Here in Texas, we are lucky enough to still be able to look on this mode of governance with a mix of detached concern and pleasant recognition that other states’ folly will be to our benefit.

The latest opportunity arises from yet another state that spends big, maintains deep debt and has high legacy governing costs looking to raise yet more money from a shrinking number of untapped sources. And Texas awaits a possible windfall in response.

We are talking about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s planned meeting with representatives of major stock exchanges, including Nasdaq, which are looking to decamp from New Jersey, where their trading platforms operate.

Why leave the Garden State? Because New Jersey’s politicians see investors’ money flowing through the pipes of those platforms and it’s too tempting not to try to carve off a slice for themselves.

It reminds us of the ‘90s movie “Office Space,” where the plot revolves around a plan to just peel off a little, tiny bit of every transaction the company makes. Who will notice that quarter-of-a-penny here and quarter-of-a-penny there?

In New Jersey, it would add up to an estimated $10 billion a year in taxes. State Assemblyman John McKeon, who proposed the bill, was quoted in August saying the state needs the tax because it is “desperate for funds.”

Desperation is a terrible circumstance in which to make decisions as serious as this.

And we cannot agree with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, that “proximity” to New York will make much difference. If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that the job can get done regardless of proximity.

We wish no ill on the good people of New Jersey. Their government has let them down by failing to address its costs over time. At some point, going back to the tax well isn’t an option.

Texas is a national leader in technology, with every resource these exchanges could need and with excellent and affordable life opportunities for their employees.

Bring your business here and keep more of your money in your pocket.

— The Dallas Morning News (TNS)

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