The new governor of Texas seems intent on making California more competitive with his own state – even though he may not realize it.

Greg Abbott, as both a candidate last year and a governor this year, has been warning Texans against efforts to “California-ize” the Lone Star state. Those warnings were broad and rhetorical, but now he’s getting specific. He’s lashing out at Texas cities that go their own way and enact policies at odds with state policy and with his conservative politics.

To stop these cities, Gov. Abbott and the Republican legislature are enacting laws to reduce local control on many issues – from business, to energy to spending and taxes. That’s bad news for Texas communities—but it’s good news for California’s own communities.

Why? Because in the constant battle between Texas and California, the contest is not really about state governments (both are weak) but about local governments. And Texas has had a huge advantage. Its cities and school districts and communities have far greater power than their California counterparts to determine their own destinies. They can make laws and regulations and economic decisions, and they can tax and spend and invest with a freedom simply not available here.

In California, the governance design is built on the principle that it’s best to tie the hands of local officials; there’s a bipartisan consensus here against local control (Republicans hate local control because they don’t like local taxes, and Democrats don’t like local control because they see equality between places as a great virtue). That means our communities have less power and discretion to go their own way, and compete economically.

Since the economic competition is not between Texas and California as states but between California communities and Texas communities, the smartest Texas places have had a huge advantage. As I wrote last year [[[LINK TO MY FRISCO COLUMN]] the North Dallas suburban cities of Plano and Frisco for example have used their discretion to attract companies and invest in schools and other amenities that make them very attractive to people and companies in California cities.

By clamping down on this freedom, Abbott is reducing the competitive advantage of his cities, and of Texas. And that’s good news for California.