In Chief Executive’s annual survey of best and worst states for business, conducted in late January of this year, 651 CEOs across the U.S. again gave Texas top honors, closely followed by North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. They gave the booby prize for worst state to California, with New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts filling out the bottom five-a line-up virtually unchanged from last year. Florida and Georgia each dropped three places in the ranking, but remain in the top 10. Utah jumped six positions this year to sneak into the top 10 at No. 9.
The business leaders were asked to draw upon their direct experience to rate each state in three general categories: taxation and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment.
Best and Worst States for Business 2010, chiefexecutive.net, 29 April 2010
See also Of 50 States, California ranks 51st, Orange County Register editorial, 5 May 2010:
As the magazine noted, Californians pay among the nation's highest income and sales taxes. Unemployment exceeds the national average, and, contrary to the national trend, "union density is climbing, from 16.1 percent of workers in 1998 to 17.8 percent in 2002."
Indeed, according to the magazine's critique, "organized labor has more political influence in California than in most other states." The magazine zeroes in on perhaps the crux of the problem: "When state employees reach critical mass, they tend to become a permanent lobby for continual growth in government."
That helps to explain why unfunded pension and health care promises for state workers "top $500 billion, and the annual pension contribution has climbed from $320 million to $7.3 billion in less than a decade," as the magazine noted.
It doesn't take a national survey to reveal California's failing business climate. Seven California metro areas were among the 15 national leaders in commercial bankruptcy filings in 2009, according to Equifax Inc. Not coincidentally, California had twice as many personal bankruptcies as any other state in 2009 when it ranked 11th in bankruptcies per capita.
It also doesn't take a CEO to notice the differences between California and top-rated Texas. Texas, with nearly as many residents and the world's 12th largest economy, "is where 70 percent of all new U.S. jobs have been created since 2008," the magazine reported. Also unsurprisingly, Texas gained more than 848,000 net residents based on migration in and out of the state in the past decade, while California lost 1.5 million, according to the Census.
"You feel like [Texas] state government understands the value of business and industry to create jobs and growth," one CEO said in the magazine.