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by PATRICK SVITEK

Gov. Greg Abbott is wasting no time pitching Texas’ business climate to companies elsewhere, dangling the state’s new tax-relief package in front of Connecticut-based General Electric.

“I’m sure governors from across America are knocking down your door since you openly declared your displeasure with Connecticut’s proposed $700 million increase in taxes on businesses over the next two years,” Abbott wrote Wednesday to GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. “But how many of my colleagues just passed a total relief tax package of $3.8 billion like we did last week in Texas?”

The letter marks Abbott’s latest effort to pick up where his jobs-poaching predecessor left off. Like former Gov. Rick Perry, Abbott has said he wants to travel the country and world to attract companies to Texas, especially in the wake of a legislative session that made the state more business-friendly.

In addition to touting Texas’ low-tax environment, Abbott plugged the state’s economic incentives programs and its commitment to educating its workers. Abbott made pre-kindergarten a priority throughout the session and last week signed into law a so-called Governor’s University Research Initiative that uses leftover money from a now-defunct incentives program to lure world-class scholars to Texas schools.

According to his office, Abbott has made similar appeals to two other companies based in Connecticut: insurance giants Aetna and Travelers.

GE has all but threatened to leave over a budget deal that would raise taxes on corporations and the state’s wealthiest residents. In a statement last week, the international conglomerate said the plan makes businesses like it “seriously consider whether it makes any sense to continue to be located in this state.”

A spokesman for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, brushed off the appeal from the red-state governor.

“Connecticut has one of the lowest — one of the lowest — effective corporate tax rates in America,” Devon Puglia said in a statement. “It’s that simple.”

Asked about Abbott’s letter, a GE spokesman would only say the company is exploring its options for moving its corporate headquarters. “It is too soon to comment further on the process,” Seth Martin added in a statement.

Texas is not the only state seeking to capitalize on GE’s dissatisfaction with Connecticut. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal indicated Tuesday his state will make a play for the company as well, and Florida is reportedly in the mix.

The letter was first reported by Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

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Gov. Greg Abbott’s letter to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt [pdf]

PATRICK SVITEK reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott campaigns at the Old Hays County Courthouse in January 2014. MERCURY PHOTO by JON SHAPLEY

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