First Britain upset the French government by offering a home to any high earners seeking to flee a new top tax band, and now the US state of Mississippi is making a bid to recruit wealthy exiles.
France’s new Socialist leader President Francois Hollande plans to slap a tax of 75 percent on all income in excess of a million euros ($1.24 million), and territories with lower rates are hoping for a cash exodus.
Thus far the focus has been on France’s neighbor Britain, whose Prime Minister David Cameron irked Hollande by boasting that London would “roll out the red carpet” to French entrepreneurs seeking shelter for their income.
But a new offer came Wednesday from a more unlikely quarter: Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi, a southern US state that was in part founded by French settlers on territory at one point controlled by the French empire.
“My name is an old French Huguenot name and my great-great-great-great grandfather Louis LeFleur, a Frenchman, founded a trading post around 1800 that developed into Mississippi’s capital, Jackson,” Barbour said.
“I wonder if we Barbour boys ought to set up a business to attract wealthy Frenchmen and successful businesses from France to Mississippi,” he mused, in an article for the website of the US magazine Foreign Policy.
“As a low tax, pro-business state with a regime of rational regulation, we could roll out the red carpet and run up the tri-color over Fort Maurepas. Bienvenue, mes amis!” he declared.
The area now known as Mississippi was first exploited by Europeans in 1540 and colonized by Spanish and French settlers who brought with them African slaves, before being surrendered to the British Empire in 1763
It became American after the Revolution and a state of the union in 1817.
Barbour left office earlier this year. As a Republican governor he signed the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” promoted by conservative lobby group Americans for Tax Reform, vowing never to support higher tax rates in any form.