The Buzz

Rick Perry may provide an important lesson

I was born in Texas, in a small town called Mineral Wells. My father was in the Air Force there.

Our family left just before my first birthday, so I don’t remember anything about the state. But growing up, I claimed it anyway — Texas roots meant I could wear my cowboy hat with pride.

I don’t wear cowboy hats anymore, but I still keep an eye on Texas, pardner. And last week’s dust-up between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was pretty dang entertaining.

To recap: Perry came to Missouri to tout the Republican tax-cut bill. He also took to the airwaves to urge businesses to relocate to or near Mineral Wells, which quickly brought a loud raspberry response from Nixon.

The winner? Stalemate, perhaps to be settled in some obscure bowl game in December.

But the exchange may help us understand something important: the robust competition among some states to lure jobs and employers isn’t always about the government.

It turns out, for example, that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a closet fan of the Lone Star state. “Look out Texas,” he said in his last State of the State speech. “Here comes Kansas!”

He was promoting his tax cuts, of course. Texas has no income tax.

But the unemployment rate this July was actually lower in Kansas than in Texas.

Missouri’s July unemployment rate was higher than that of Kansas or Texas. Its total tax burden is higher than in Texas, too.

Forbes magazine says the overall business climate in Missouri is 29th best in the country, while Texas is ranked seventh. Yikes.

Yet, in that same survey, Missouri does better than Texas in — get this — quality of life.

People and companies move into and out of states for different reasons. Taxes are one reason, of course, but opportunities, education, safety, convenience, entertainment options — even the weather — are significant determiners for bosses and workers alike.

Even Rick Perry can’t control all those things.

My parents were fond of Texas, but when my father’s enlistment ended they moved back to the Kansas City area, where most of their friends and family lived. It was good enough for them.

And there are three reasons I’ve lived here almost all my life: the quality people, the interesting news environment, and a relatively fair tax burden.