Americans have flocked to Texas in search of a piece of the state's booming economy as much of the rest of the country struggled. Now, the state's largest cities are seeing crowded highways, strained water supplies and other pressures that have come with the growth. And Texas politicians—protective of the small-government, low-tax policies many of them believe are at the root of the state's success—are grappling with how to pay the price of prosperity.
Aided by the promise of plentiful employment and a low cost of living, Texas added 1.3 million people from 2010 to 2013, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Lone Star State's population has pushed past 26 million and is projected to reach 40 million by 2050.
Half of the 10 American cities with the largest population increases in the 12 months ended July 1, 2012, were in Texas, according to the Census Bureau. Houston, the nation's fourth-biggest city with about 2.2 million people, added 34,625 residents, second only to New York. Austin added 25,395 and now has some 843,000 residents, more than San Francisco.
The state's outsize growth is a matter of pride for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has touted the "Texas Miracle" as proof that its lower taxes and lighter regulations are effective job creators. Texans paid 7.5% of their income in state and local taxes in 2011, compared with 11.4% in California and 9.2% in Florida, according to the most recent data from the Tax Foundation, a research organization.
But the size and pace of the population spurt is becoming more difficult to manage, presenting public officials with a challenge: How to beef up public infrastructure without straying from their small-government philosophy.
"We are already straining our systems for water, power, schools and roads," says Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter, appointed by Mr. Perry in 2010. "And they'll continue to be stressed unless we invest more heavily."