Watch out Missouri, Rick Perry wants your jobs

August 29, 2013
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is going to St. Louis on Thursday, and when he returns to Texas, he wants to take a few Missouri companies with him.

Governors frequently pitch businesses on moving to their states, but Perry has raised the practice to an art form. His travels are often accompanied by paid advertising touting Texas’s low taxes and friendly business environment.

The advertisements, which have run in California, Illinois, Connecticut, New York and Missouri, sound like a negative political spot.

“I have a word of advice for employers frustrated by Illinois’s short-sighted approach to business: You need to get out while there’s still time. The escape route leads straight to Texas, where limited government, low taxes and a pro-business environment are creating more jobs than any other state,” Perry says in an ad that ran in April.

The ads, and some of Perry’s travel, are paid for by TexasOne, a public-private partnership run through the Texas Economic Development Corporation in Austin. The group doesn’t get funding from the state; the annual report shows it generated $1.3 million in revenue in fiscal year 2012, the vast majority coming from corporate donors like AT&T, CapitalOne, ExxonMobile and Verizon. Economic development councils in Houston, Brownsville, Amarillo, Frisco and Lubbock are also major contributors.

The cities of Sugar Land, Cedar Park and Haslet contributed between $5,000 and $25,000 in taxpayer money, the report shows, while another 14 cities donated $1,000 each.

TexasOne paid for what it calls “missions” to recruit businesses from New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Montreal, Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy in 2012, according to its annual report.

The forays aren’t without political consequences. The advertisements TexasOne is running in Missouri criticize Gov. Jay Nixon (D) for vetoing legislation that would have cut Missouri’s corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3.25 percent, and would have cut the personal income tax rate by half a percentage point, to 5.5 percent. Supporters of the bill, led by the state Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, are trying to round up the votes to override Nixon’s veto, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Nixon has blasted the Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting Perry at Thursday’s luncheon in St. Louis. “For the Missouri Chamber of Commerce to host a speaker at the same time that speaker is running ads saying Missouri businesses should go to another state, is in direct contravention to the purposes of that organization which is to support and enhance Missouri businesses,” Nixon said in a statement.

At least one St. Louis radio station has pulled the ads. “We feel the need to stand strong with other small locally owned businesses and defend our region,” KTRS general manager Mark Dorsey said.

TexasOne is spending more than $200,000 on television and radio ads that began running Aug. 20. The television ads ran on six cable stations in three markets, while the radio campaign played on stations in St. Louis, Springfield, Columbia, Joplin and Kansas City.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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