Kansas Progress Institute

Ad Astra Per Aspera ~ To the Stars Through Difficulties

An Earnest Effort to Resolve the “Border War”?

Posted on April 15, 2016

By David Burress

There are times when you have to assume the devil is acting in good faith and this one of them.

As reported in Kansascity.com, Governor Brownback has offered to allow a study (which Hallmark Foundation would pay for) of how to terminate the senseless “border war” over what is loosely called “economic development.”

This struggle consists in competing, unfair tax incentives for companies that move back and forth across the Kansas-Missouri border in the Greater Kansas City metro area. At least 108 companies have taken advantage since 2009, at a revenue cost of at least $262M, or about $6000 per job, with comparable numbers of jobs moving in each direction.

There are good reasons to doubt Brownback’s sincerity.

1. Brownback’s offer comes with a month left in the Missouri legislative session, making action extremely difficult for this year.
2. At this point Brownback is insisting on some kind of perfect agreement that would take all possible subsidies into account, almost certainly a deal breaker.
3. In 2011, 17 top business and municipal executives from both sides of the line sent Brownback a letter asking for action on this problem, but Brownback shrugged it off.
4. In 2014, Missouri governor Jay Nixon pushed through legislation to stop Missouri incentives provided Kansas did the same, but Brownback rejected it as not sufficiently comprehensive–without proposing any alternative.
5. Meanwhile Brownback’s fiscal policies are under withering and sustained state, national, and international attack for their miserable design, execution, and performance–good reasons why Brownback should be desperate for a political distraction.

Nevertheless, Missouri should accept Brownback’s offer and cooperate fully, and Kansans should support it. Merely setting up a process gets a dynamic going that is popular with elites on both sides of the border and might be hard to stop. It also creates a good campaign issue for the 2016 legislative elections in both states.

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