Chamber grades Barbour well on jobs

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave high marks to the job-creation efforts of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) Wednesday as he spoke at the unveiling of a study on cutting burdensome regulations.

The Chamber study found that if each state cut back on its labor rules, it could help create almost 750,000 new jobs and start up more than 50,000 new businesses. The study graded the states on reducing barriers to growth, and Barbour’s home state of Mississippi scored in the top tier.

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Barbour, who is considering a White House run in 2012, used the Chamber address to tout his record. He talked about how as governor he worked to reduce barriers to job creation in Mississippi by passing a tort reform bill to remedy Mississippi’s reputation for “lawsuit abuse.” He also talked about efforts to offer more training to the state’s workforce.

“We did make a real focus on our workforce and our working people and it has had a very positive impact. … A lot of very high-end manufacturers have come to our state in the wake of this policy,” Barbour said. 

He cited companies like General Electric, Toyota and Severstal, a Russian steel business, which have come and built manufacturing plants in Mississippi during his time in office.

Barbour said Mississippi hasn’t “given up on manufacturing,” saying it will lead to job creation as well as help “the average person.”

“The real reason that we need to be dedicated to workforce development and job training is to help our working people. They deserve it as much as they deserve a high school diploma,” Barbour said.

Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman and successful Washington lobbyist, is considering a run for the White House in 2012. He criticized the Obama administration and congressional Democrats for focusing on drafting a healthcare reform law for much of the prior two years.

Barbour said the country needs to return its focus to its “first problem,” economic growth and job creation.

“That has got to be the main thing,” Barbour said. To get the economy back on track, the governor said, he would not raise taxes while cutting back on government spending.

The Chamber’s report, conducted by the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw and the consulting group Navigant Economics, looked at a multitude of factors that the Chamber believes could hinder state economies, such as each state’s minimum and living wage laws and stance on collective bargaining rights, as well as the litigation climate.

Taking those measurements, the two groups then developed an Employment Regulation Index to group the states into three tiers. Twenty states were ranked in the “good” category, 20 as “fair” and 15 as “poor.”

Barbour’s state, Mississippi, was ranked as “good” in the Chamber’s study.