Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a California fixation, but at least he's willing to admit it. As governor of Texas, he's looking to lure away as many California businesses as possible, and he's doing it at a rate that should alarm every politician in the Golden State. Having Toyota relocate its U.S. headquarters from Torrance to Plano is his biggest coup thus far, and Perry has made a run at several others, including some in Kern County's burgeoning space industries.
Then there's the rhetoric: California is over-taxed, over-regulated, over-governed and decidedly bad for business, he says. So, when Perry comes to California he knows that he's going to be portrayed as a pirate -- looting and pillaging as many of California's most successful businesses as he can manage.
While Perry is content to lure businesses away with tax incentives, affordable housing and a distribution-friendly, mid-continent location, he's not the California hater that many believe him to be. In fact, he's the first to admit that he loves the state for its beauty, its innovation and the wine.
So, how does Perry remedy this perception that he's only here to take? He spins it like this: Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Legislature should be grateful for the wakeup call. Perry suggests it's time to acknowledge that California can't continue placing onerous regulatory burdens on businesses.
Whether you agree with his practices or not, Perry makes some good points. He is certainly right about the virtues of competition. Texas swagger is all about positioning the state as a global leader in energy, technology, education and agriculture. Perry will even tell you that the state is rivaling New York when it comes to arts. Doubt that could be true? Listen to the Texas governor run down the list of museums and performing arts centers that the Lone Star State has opened in the past decade.
Of course, Perry doesn't share these words of advice purely out of the goodness of his heart. He makes it clear that his list of retirement options -- he concludes his third and final term as governor in seven months -- includes the possibility of another run for president in 2016. Clearly, no candidate can ignore California -- the country's richest electoral prize -- not even the governor of the country's second-richest electoral prize. Maybe that's why, during a visit to The Californian's editorial offices Tuesday, he made many conciliatory comments about this state.
During his meeting here, Perry showed two sides of himself: job thief and California booster. It may be hard for many of us to reconcile these images, but this is indisputable. The advice of a savvy outsider is not to be dismissed.
Rick Perry, a rural Texan to the core, is the ultimate California outsider, to be sure. And though his pillaging nature and whimsical gamesmanship might irk some -- and it should -- his challenge to this state's way of conducting business is worthy of study and reflection.
We Californians do a lot of things well. We are innovators, engineers and opinion leaders. We have produced more than a few leaders of distinction. And in many ways, the maxim that as California goes, so goes the nation, still resonates.
But in California's quest to keep business happily ensconced in this state, a Texan may have some useful perspective.