The list of who’s leading needed efforts to end the costly economic development border war is a bit on the small side right now: Missouri legislators and selected civic officials.
Meanwhile, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is taking a wait-and-see approach. A committee that’s appropriately heavy on Johnson and Wyandotte county representatives is reviewing the matter.
Finally, one group would love for taxpayer giveaways to continue in the Kansas City region. Selected local companies remain eager to receive any public dollars that politicians will throw at them for hopping across the state line.
It’s up to politicians to act, as Missouri’s did Monday in one of the first encouraging steps forward in a long time on this issue.
A House committee endorsed a bill that would call on the state to prevent tax breaks to companies moving from Johnson, Wyandotte, Douglas or Miami counties into one of four Missouri counties: Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass.
The proposal has much merit. If adopted in both states, this approach could reduce the mistaken idea of offering public funds to businesses that too often aren’t creating any net new jobs.
This battle has reduced tax revenues in both states. One measurement of the problem comes in a report promoted by Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation: The states have waived taxes of $217 million in recent years, leading to a net gain of only 414 jobs for Kansas.
For too many years, lawmakers ignored pleas by many in the Kansas City civic community to cut this nonsense out. Politicians were reluctant to appear to be reducing their gung-ho attitude about attracting jobs.
Kansas officials point out that they have a discretionary set of state incentives, and the governor’s office is in control there. That makes Brownback a very powerful player when it comes to deciding what he wants a final solution to look like to stop the silliness in the border war for businesses.
Kansas officials say they want to take their time to make sure the system Missouri lawmakers hope to put in place does not have some unintended consequences, for either state.
At least the border war finally has the attention of leading politicians in both states. Missouri must continue pursuing final passage of its bill; Kansas officials should look at embracing a similar plan.
The public would be well served by ending these wasteful taxpayer subsidies.