DAVE HELLING

Kansas: Giving with one hand, taking with the other?

Updated: 2014-02-24T22:31:32Z

By DAVE HELLING

The Kansas City Star

Let’s say you work at a job you enjoy, but one that now seems stagnant. Maybe you’re not being paid enough. Maybe your job responsibilities haven’t grown.

So you look around. After some effort, you get a call — another job, in another state. There’s more good news. The position means a substantial increase in salary.

There is, however, a possible hitch. The new firm’s work culture can be a challenge. Conformity is paramount. Workers are not expected to make independent decisions. Rather, direction comes from the top down. Creativity is less important than dedication and hard work.

Would you take that job?

Maybe you would. It’s hard to pass up a major wage boost, even if a new work environment is challenging.

At the same time, if you’re like most people, you’d give at least some thought to the new workplace. You probably would balance the extra income with the problems and rewards of the new position.

Kansas is now engaged in what Gov. Sam Brownback has called an “experiment” designed to lure employers to the state. The bait — tax cuts — is almost entirely financial. In fact, the governor has said he supports lower taxes precisely because his state lacks amenities such as beaches, oceans or mountains.

But while that experiment unfolds, Brownback’s Legislature has worked this year on restricting the state’s cultural environment. Limiting rights for some same-sex couples. Escalating standards for permissible corporal punishment. Restrictions on voting. Reduced funding for education.

All of those positions may or may not have merit. But won’t companies pondering a move to the state give at least some thought to the state’s overall culture, in addition to whatever extra income they’d get from tax cuts?

The answer is surely yes. Some firms might like the state’s more conservative tilt — JE Dunn, maybe. Other companies, though, particularly tech companies that tend to tilt libertarian and lean on a younger workforce, might decide against trading culture for cash.

Some Kansans aren’t worried about the contrast. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for example, has explicitly told people who don’t like the Kansas environment to move somewhere else.

That stance seems at odds with Brownback’s desire to get more people to move into his beachless state.

If Kansas is seeing fewer companies and jobs than predicted — which it is — it may be because tax cuts alone can’t keep overcome the state’s growing reputation as a cultural outlier.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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