Texas Governor Rick Perry has angered some Democrats for his high profile visits to blue states, inviting businesses to move to Texas.
Are they mad because their governors didn’t think of the idea first? More likely, Perry is having some success. And why not? He’s not lying when he touts a pro-business climate in Texas. Neither is he making stuff up when he points out that states like Illinois and California are losing jobs due to high business taxes and a stifling regulatory environment.
Perry’s forceful recruitment campaigns, featuring radio and magazine ads as well as personal appearances, promise low-tax, pro-growth policies in Texas —and they also trash the business climate in places like California (“…I hear building a business in California is next to impossible”) and Illinois (“…an environment that, intentionally or not, is designed for you to fail.”)
Those attacks hit where it hurts and have touched off an angry political backlash against Perry outside the Texas borders, with Democrats mocking his attempts to steal jobs as clownish – and warning the Republican governor to keep his handsoff. In a memorable put-down, Gov. Jerry Brown said Perry’s incursions into California were about as effective as breaking wind.
But other observers say Perry knows exactly what he’s doing.
“At the end of the day, no matter how any of the [states] respond, people are left with two distinct messages: That guy down in Texas has got big brass balls and he’s creating a lot of jobs,” Mark McKinnon, a political strategist with deep Texas ties, told POLITICO. “It’s brilliant marketing and very smart politics.”
McKinnon also noted, “Of course it breaks all the rules of inter-state diplomacy and protocol.”
Perry has stepped up jobs raids into the blue states of Illinois and California this year, efforts that come as he looks to announce his next political step after the Texas legislative session concludes. His current gubernatorial term is up in 2014, and he hasn’t ruled out a 2016 presidential run.
The governor’s bids to encourage companies to relocate — critics call it “poaching” — are the most aggressive in the nation, according to experts.
“It’s irresistible to a lot of governors, but Perry has been the leader,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow and director of policy for the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute. “This is not necessarily the best way for state executives to spend time, but it’s hard to resist. It’s politically attractive, the chief executive is seen as, quote, ‘trying to do something.’ Any successful relocation offers the tried-and-true moment of the ribbon cutting, so it’s pretty intoxicating stuff.”
Perry visited Illinois in April and was roundly criticized by Democrats in the state. But the business climate in Illinois is so bad that the governors from the border states of of Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Indiana have all made their own pitches to businesses in the state.
Perry’s efforts may be drawing the most attention, but the bottom line is obvious: Facebook is opening two new data facilities in Midwest states and Illinois is not one of them. Given that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, is a staunch supporter of Barack Obama, one would think that opening a facility that would give Obama’s homestate a boost in jobs would be in the cards. It wasn’t and CEO’s like Zuckerberg won’t be coming to Illinois anytime soon as long as they have the second highest business tax rate in the nation, poor schools, and crumbling infrastructure. Nor will they be beating down the door of Jerry Brown in California, or any other state that creates a business climate not conducive to growth.
Instead of criticizing Perry, Democrats would do much better imitating his methods.