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Texas governor's radio ad lures California business


NEWS10ABC.  FEBRUARY 5, 2013.  It's only a radio ad, but if you listen closely you can almost hear the swagger of the governor of Texas.

"Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible," says an sympathetic Gov. Rick Perry in the 30 second radio ad now on the air in California's major radio markets.

"I have a message for California businesses," Perry says.  "Come check out Texas."

Perry's new public relations assault is only the latest chapter in a saga that has been running now for years -- a battle between the nation's two most populous states for bragging rights about who's got it the best.

Texas, by some economic measures, has been winning the fight in recent years: lower unemployment, less regulatory hurdles for businesses, and a welcome mat as wide as the Rio Grande.

The ad -- a small purchase of only $24,000 on six California radio stations -- was probably designed for news attention as anything.

"If nothing else, he's particularly aggressive in marketing himself," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in response to the ad.  "The bottom line is, our competition is casing the joint."

The ad did not seem to generate much response from the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown.  A spokesman for the governor'sOffice of Business and Economic Development did not respond to a request for comment.

At an unrelated event in Los Angeles, Brown dismissed the radio campaign as pretty ho hum.

"Of course they're coming here," said Brown in a transcript provided late Monday afternoon by his office.  "So are the British coming here, so are the French, so are the Russians, so are the Chinese. Everybody with half a brain is coming to California. So Texas, come on over!"

Texas and California both get a lot of national attention for their perceived business climates -- but with much different outcomes. California is often criticized for its regulations and taxes, and the passage of the Proposition 30 temporary tax increase has now fueled two efforts.  Business officials in Phoenix wooed California business owners just after the election, and Perry also mentions the new taxes in his campaign.

"Now with the passage of Prop 30," says the website of the Texas foundation behind the ad, "which increases California's already excessive income and sales tax, while Texas maintains no state income tax and a low business tax burden - businesses are moving to Texas."

California has had its successes -- a major expansion for Apple in its hometown of Cupertino, the decision by Samsung to locate its research and development center in San Jose.

"It's preposterous to suggest that California is one of the worst places to do business," said Newsom, pointing to the state's higher education system as a draw to companies while also arguing that some taxes -- namely property taxes -- are lower in California than in Texas.

(Of course, Texas has no state income tax and a generally lower sales tax than many states, including California.)

Newsom, in a phone interview from San Francisco, also pointed out that California has been leading the United States in job growth in recent months, though the state still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

The lieutenant governor, though, criticized the Brown administration for not having an aggressive enough economic development strategy.

"We've got to lean in and get our act together," said Newsom, who was part of a state delegation to meet with Perry and Texas officials in 2011.  "I wish it was this administration and the state that was doing exactly what Rick Perry is doing."

The issue of businesses leaving California has been a hot political topic for years, most recently in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.  And while there are a number of vocal critics with examples of companies that decided to pull up stakes, others point to overall workforce data that suggests business relocation has not been a major factor in the size of the state's job base since the early 1990s.

But that's not to say that California couldn't do more to encourage businesses to either move in or stay put... which is where the Texas governor's PR blitz comes in.

"See why our low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system are just the thing to get your business moving to Texas," he says in the radio ad.