Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware writes about state competitiveness and what’s needed to attract businesses in a Washington Post op-ed today, “Taxes are the wrong focus for economic growth. He raises many serious points toward which manufacturers will be sympathetic:
[Where] will the innovation come from if we don’t make necessary investments in federally funded research? Who will take innovation to market if we don’t help millions of workers retool their skills with appropriate job training? How will we get these new goods to market cost-effectively if we don’t improve our infrastructure? These are precisely the investments other nations are making. We must, too.
The NAM’s Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America argues for the same priorities, among others. We’re with him.
Indeed, Gov. Markell, a Democrat, is a friend to manufacturing, and his State of the State address in January was right on the mark on how to encourage business.
Still, it seems to us that the Governor is offering a false dichotomy: tax competitiveness versus the other factors like R&D, skills and infrastructure. When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin pounced on Illinois’ decision to raise income taxes by inviting companies to relocate to his state — a story Gov. Markell begins his column with — Gov. Walker was not just telling business he was going to keep taxes under control, he was sending the message that Wisconsin was going to put its entire house in order. A state that can’t balance its budget without a major tax increase is unlikely to set the other policy priorities needed to create a positive business climate.
The other consideration that Gov. Markell does not address is that competitiveness is really a global issue today. States continue to battle each other to attract business, but the real fight is on the country-to-country level. Taxes are so critical in this competition, and the United States is so far behind.
In the Tax Foundation’s latest Fiscal Fact, Scott Hodge reports, “Countdown to #1: 2011 Marks 20th Year That U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Is Higher than OECD Average“:
There is increasing recognition in Washington that the U.S. corporate tax rate is out of step with the lower tax rates of most industrialized and emerging nations. Indeed, 2011 marks the 20th year in which the U.S. statutory tax rate has been above the simple average of non-U.S. countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
It is now well known that with a combined federal and state corporate tax rate of 39.2 percent, the U.S. has the second-highest overall rate among OECD nations. Only Japan, with a combined rate of 39.5 percent, levies a higher rate.
As Gov. Markell points out, other countries’ governments are spending in critical areas like R&D, infrastructure and skills training. But here’s the point: They’re doing so even with corporate tax rates lower than in the United States.