Texas is officially sending mixed signals to business

cruz and abbott

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks while Gov. Greg Abbott looks on during a news conference at the Texas Capitol.

Note: This story originally appeared on The Quorum Report. Join us there for daily coverage of Texas politics and government. 

General Electric delivered a blow to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s economic development efforts on Friday as Bloomberg let us know that GE “dropped the Dallas area as a site for a possible headquarters move because of concern that Texas’s political climate is unfavorable to the company’s business.” The company is apparently considering other places like Atlanta, for example.

The specific problem with Texas is Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies’ fight against the Export-Import Bank, the report said. General Electric is a huge exporter as are many Texas businesses.

During the same speech on the US Senate floor in which Sen. Cruz called the leader of his party in the chamber a liar, he also said that average folks have no clue what the Ex-Im Bank even is. “The what?” is what he claimed average folks would say. Never mind that many employers who sign the front of paychecks for average Texans know very well what the Ex-Im bank is and consider it a priority. Cruz pointed to one other senator as someone he could applaud for their stance on the issue: Self-proclaimed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Cruz, like Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, has made a point of decrying “corporate welfare” and public-private partnerships.

Burton, you may recall, slammed tax breaks for Facebook after the company agreed to move a coveted data center to Tarrant County and after Gov. Abbott had participated in a groundbreaking ceremony with company officials. Business groups have been shocked to hear that a state senator in Texas, particularly a Republican, would so publicly oppose a project that’s bringing jobs and investment to her district.

Back in June, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, informing him about recently-passed tax cuts as well as the state’s economic incentives programs for businesses.

“How many of my colleagues (other governors) just passed a total tax package of $3.8 billion like we did last week in Texas?” Abbott asked Immelt. “The Lone Star State already offers one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the nation, with no corporate income tax, no individual tax and no property tax at the state level – not to mention one of the most competitive deal-closing incentives programs,” Abbbott said.

Like his predecessor, Gov. Abbott is making the pitch to businesses that government should work with them to achieve the goals of job creation and investment in the communities where they are located.

Senators Cruz and Burton are saying something else entirely: That only the free market, without any government intervention, should decide where they end up.

“When you muddy the waters like this, it sends a mixed signal,” said one Dallas-area Republican when they learned of GE’s decision. “That would have been thousands of jobs for Texas.”

For decades, Texas has without question been considered hospitable for business – that was with both Democrats and later Republicans in charge. There is no doubt the state will continue to thrive economically thanks to many of the things former Gov. Rick Perry and now Gov. Abbott point to: Low taxes, predictable regulations, and tort reform.

But, one can only rail against business for so long before business leaders start to hear about it.

Copyright August 29, 2015, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission. 

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