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Texas Politics Under Fire in Campaign to Pull Businesses to New York

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Gov. Greg Abbott isn't too happy with New York's business recruitment ads.

From Texas Standard:

Texas has been long known for trying to lure businesses from other countries and states around the U.S. Now, the state of New York is getting in on the game. They’re running ads nationwide, including Texas media channels – like news site KXAN in Austin.

The ad references historical social movements involving the Empire State, its role in ending slavery, women's suffrage and more.

“For hundreds of years, New York State has stood as a beacon – a beacon to welcome those unwelcome in other places,” a woman in the ad says. ”New York State has always been at the forefront and now continues to be, with the recent battle for LGBT rights. Here we open doors for fairness, equality and respectable treatment for those who could not find it elsewhere.”

The commercial goes on to include the headlines “Seven Other States Considering Restricting Bathrooms for Transgender People” and “Gov. Abbott Says Public Officials Can Discriminate Against Gay People

Brandon Rottinghaus, political science professor at the University of Houston, says one role of governors has been that of an economic cheerleader. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry did it, and Gov. Greg Abbott is doing the same.

"The governors want to hunt where the ducks are,” Rottinghaus says. “They want to try to pull business in. ... But sometimes a cheerleader isn’t the most popular figure in school.”

In a move to paint Texas in a better light, Abbott had some choice words for New York’s campaign – pointing out that the state has also led the country in several movements that weren’t that great.

“This is one of those moments where you've got business thinking of moving to Texas, but they consider not only the social issues but also the economic issues,” Rottinghaus says. “This is part of a bigger package of things that these business look to when they're thinking of moving."

Social issues are also becoming increasingly important for employees and employers to consider when thinking about jobs, Rottinghaus says.

"Employees want to work at a place that shares their values,” he says. “This is more than just jeans on Friday and catered lunches."

Texas might look welcome from an economic perspective, Rottinghaus says, but as other states follow this model, businesses may think twice at Texas’ sharp-elbow politics.

For example, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently asked a federal court to issue an injunction on President Barack Obama’s directive to allow children who are transgender to use their preferred bathroom in public schools. Rottinghaus says this is partly to pivot attention away from Patrick's own political troubles, as well as a way to push the issue in an election year and make additional headway in advance of the 2017 legislative session.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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