Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC exclusive interview with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” (M-F 9AM – 11AM ET) today, Thursday, September 2nd. Following is a link to video on CNBC.com:
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott: Abortion Law, Similar Policies Will Draw Business To Texas
MORGAN BRENNAN: The state of Texas is the center of some controversy on a number of fronts this morning grabbing headlines for the new abortion law that Rahel Solomon just mentioned but all of this as the state works to court new employers and jobs. Here to discuss Texas and its economic trajectory in a CNBC exclusive is Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Governor Abbott, thanks for being with us this morning.
GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: My pleasure, Morgan. Good morning.
BRENNAN: So I do want to get to the news that you are joining us about which is some of these new technological and innovation based investments in your state, specifically around a startup called Gatik which is autonomous trucking. That being said, I think we would be remiss if we didn't ask about several of these major topics that are in the news more broadly right now that have become not only the subjects of debate and controversy politically and socially but for corporate America as well and I wanted to start with that so called “heartbeat” bill that is implement, being implemented in your state. Forbes this, Forbes is out with a survey with a headline that two-thirds of college educated workers may avoid Texas now because of this abortion ban. What's your response?
GOV. ABBOTT: So, you do see some publications who tried to categorize the Texas business environment based upon the positions that the Texas legislature takes. However, the truth of the matter shows something completely different. The Federal Reserve puts out a report every single month that shows the mobility of people moving from one state to another. Month after month after month, including the most recent month, shows that people are choosing to move to Texas more than any other state in the United States and it's not even close. And so regardless of some hand wringing by some publications, the people who are not wringing their hands are the people who create jobs that run businesses that care about their daily lives and people are choosing Texas over any other state and part of that is because of our low regulations, our no income tax, in fact we constitutionally banned an income tax in the state of Texas but we have a terrific business climate which is exactly why Gatik, for example, chose to come to the state of Texas and improve its mobile innovation and so, companies are choosing Texas because it has the superior business climate.
BRENNAN: I totally understand that and certainly Texas consistently ranks high on CNBC’s list of Top States for Business but right or wrong, for better or worse, I mean, you do have businesses that have not been shy to react to some of these political or social topics as of late, be it whether it's the abortion situation, whether it is some of the voting laws that are being, being implemented. We've certainly seen that happen in Georgia. I know you're in the process of implementing some voting reforms in Texas as well that are getting a lot of attention. Maybe it's because of their workforces, maybe it's because of investors insisting on ESG but aren't you worried that some of the major employers in your state are going to respond negatively or potentially pull investment or donation dollars in light of some of these topics.
GOV. ABBOTT: So, first again, we continue to see a massive influx of these employers coming to the state of Texas because candidly, not only do they like the business environment but Morgan, you need to understand that there's a lot of businesses and a lot of Americans who like the social positions that the state of Texas is taking. It's very important that I address one thing that you raise because it kind of explains part of this process. You raised the issue about the Election Integrity Law that did just pass the Texas legislature and that I will be signing and if you go back a few months in time back when Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game out of Atlanta and there was a big to do in the state of Texas between Texas as well as Major League Baseball about that as well as some big companies in the state of Texas that came out and criticized the state of Texas for the position that we were taking but Morgan, this is important, when they learn the facts of what the Election Integrity Law does in the state of Texas, they realize that Texas was adding more time to vote. Texas was making it easier to vote than before the law passed. Let me just give you one quick example and that is Texas has almost two weeks of early voting to make it very easy for people to vote and in the President's home state of Delaware, they have zero days of early voting so it's far easier for people to vote in Texas or even in New York than it is in so many other places and so if people look at the facts, they realize, wait a second, Texas really is a well governed state.
BRENNAN: So I just want to put a fine point on this, are you saying that all of these policies are actually helping to bolster business right now?
GOV. ABBOTT: Again, people vote with their feet and this is not slowing down businesses coming to the state of Texas at all. In fact, it is accelerating the process of businesses coming to Texas particularly, Morgan, interestingly, they are leaving the very liberal state of California and I gotta tell you whether it be Elon Musk who I talk to frequently, Elon had to get out of California because in part of the social policies in California and Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state of Texas.
BRENNAN: So just to shift gears a little bit, COVID. We're starting to see this, the cases have been elevated really in many parts of the country, certainly in Texas as well. You can argue that based on the data, the rate of increases on some of those key metrics in the state of Texas potentially flatlining. Where do we stand in terms of not only cases and hospitalizations but the response and the resources that the state has available?
GOV. ABBOTT: A couple things real quick, Morgan, and that is as you pointed out, the numbers are flatlining, if not declining. The positivity rate in Texas is at a three-week low and has steadily declined for three weeks. In fact, it’s the lowest that it has been in over a month, hospitalizations are flatlining, the positivity cases are flatlining so things are looking good as candidly, the same thing that we've seen in the other states that were hardest hit earlier like Arkansas and Louisiana and Missouri and Florida. And so, things, there is a glimmer of hope about the way that things are looking in Texas but also Morgan, one thing that the state of Texas is doing is we're using, in these antibody infusion centers, we've been opening these up around the entire state of Texas and these antibody infusion centers are doing a terrific job of reducing hospitalizations is one of the best ways to keep people who test positive for COVID out of hospitals.
BRENNAN: Yeah and certainly companies like Regeneron have been major focus given some of those treatments and the increasing availability of them. What do you attribute I guess that flatline or even the potential decrease in terms of the Delta spike in your state and I ask that from a policy standpoint and the fact that Texas was very early in terms of re-openings but you've also implemented a ban on mask mandates and the like?
GOV. ABBOTT: Sure, if you look at the studies globally, when Delta hit Israel or Delta hit the UK or Delta hit other states in the United States early, it seems like there's a lifespan of advancement of the Delta variant that lasts about a month or so and then you see a decline and you see this repeated from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and it looks like it's being repeated in the state of Texas. Also, and so we are anticipating to see an additional decline as well as a lot of people with acquired immunity. You know, Dr. Gottlieb, who I think is a contributor on CNBC and who was also tied to Pfizer, he came out and said recently that it’s extremely important for health officials to take into consideration acquired immunity and the role that it plays in making sure that we slow the spread and the fact of the matter is, there's a tremendous amount of acquired immunity in the state of Texas. One report showed that at least 30% of Texans do have acquired immunity and Dr. Gottlieb said that that is just as powerful in being able to repel future infections of COVID-19 as a vaccine and so with our acquired immunity, with those who have already received full vaccination, the numbers are beginning to look very good in the state of Texas.
BRENNAN: Well, that is very promising to hear. Hurricane Ida hit the gulf very hard earlier this week and certainly Louisiana got the brunt of it but we have seen a certain amount of oil production shuttered in, refining capacity offline. What has been the impact or I guess ripple effects to Texas if any?
GOV. ABBOTT: Well, the first, you know, obviously our concern and our hearts go to the people in Louisiana but also our resources because I instructed about the National Guard as well as the Texas Division of Emergency Management to provide resources to help our friends and neighbors over in Louisiana like they frequently help us but as far as the impact on Texas, it has been extremely minimal. There was no hurricane effect to the state of Texas. The only thing that we've seen that you all probably talk about on your show, there's actually been a dramatic increase in the price of natural gas and that will be helping businesses in the oil and gas sector in the state of Texas.
BRENNAN: Yeah, multi-year highs. So, finally let's get back to Gatik, an investment new autonomous trucking facility in the state of Texas. This is an autonomous trucking startup that said it's going to establish long-term presence in your state as well. How does it speak to some of these innovations and newer technologies whether it's in transportation and logistics or you mentioned Elon Musk earlier, commercial spaceflight, Texas has become a hub for that as well perhaps not surprisingly. How does it speak to some of those new types of businesses that you're courting?
GOV. ABBOTT: Well, it kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier and that is Texas really is becoming the leading innovation state in the United States and candidly, we can just go through the stories Morgan, that you yourself have reported on. There is of course SpaceX that you mentioned, there's Blue Origin where you were in the state of Texas for that, there's the Giga factory, another thing you reported on is Army Futures Command where the future of the United States Army is being built out here in downtown Austin where their focus is on artificial intelligence and robotics but now also autonomous vehicles and there's the AllianceTexas’ Mobility Innovation Zone where Gatik is operating out of. It’s a 75-square mile location between Dallas and Fort Worth that has a large sector of autonomous vehicles that are already operating business to business and deliveries, whether it be short haul or long haul, operating from there. And by the way for your viewers this, where this autonomous zone is located is also the headquarters of Charles Schwab.
BRENNAN: So this autonomous zone I guess in terms of the data you're able to glean from there, how does it speak to how quickly potentially or slowly we could actually see self-driving, the self-driving technology on the road in Texas more broadly?
GOV. ABBOTT: So, the first word you chose was the correct one, how quickly because it is moving very rapidly because every single time that one of these vehicles goes out onto the road and makes a delivery, that is software information that is being processed that will be used in the future. And so, the pace just continues to accelerate with every single trip that is taken. Some are short haul where it may be going from the Texas Alliance center to a Walmart store or an Amazon fulfillment center or some of it could be long haul going from the Dallas, Fort Worth area all the way to the city of Houston. And so, all of this is programmed information that just makes future travel and future trips even better and even safer and so we do expect this to happen at a very rapid pace. Autonomous vehicles are coming very rapidly in the state of Texas.
BRENNAN: Governor Abbott, we appreciate it. Wide-ranging interview, we've tackled a lot of topics and we appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us today.
GOV. ABBOTT: Thank you, Morgan.