Rick Perry battles Sam Brownback to steal jobs from KC and Missouri

08/24/2013 6:05 PM

08/24/2013 6:05 PM

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants to poach jobs from Missouri. That means he’s going to have to battle Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who’s already trying to steal jobs from Kansas City and the Show-Me State.

Perry is part of

a TV ad campaign

now airing in select areas of Missouri, extolling the “virtues” of operating a business in Texas.

(The downside: Yes, you have to work in Texas.)

The ad, and Perry’s expected trip to Missouri next week, have prompted Secretary of State Jason Kander to

issue his own

“stay out of Missouri” press release today. It makes the usual, and excellent, point that all of this shipping of jobs from one state to the other isn’t really creating a lot of net new jobs for states.

Perry and Brownback are both Republicans, and both are touting the “low” taxes of their respective states. Meanwhile, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon accurately points out that Missouri also has low taxes.

This race to the bottom on tax rates is not encouraging news for schools, road builders and anyone else who relies on good public services.

Yes, this is what economic development too often looks like these days: Politicians desperately trying to woo companies to their states with promises of tax breaks and other special favors that ordinary businesses and regular taxpayers normally don’t get.

I spent Thursday morning in Johnson County, where the mayors of Overland Park, Lenexa and Mission essentially defended their use of economic incentives to get and keep jobs.

The Kansas City area is at the heart of much of the job-poaching debate because it’s right along the state line.

In some cases, Missouri has gone too far in doling out public subsidies to companies. The recent wooing of Freightquote’s headquarters to southeast Kansas City is near the top of the list.

In other examples, Kansas has pulled out all stops to hand out special tax breaks to select companies to help them come to that state.

Meanwhile, you now have some companies inside Johnson County pitting themselves against each other. The worst/best example is Wal-Mart’s decision to leave one taxpayer-supported development area in Roeland Park to move to another publicly subsidized area in Mission.

In response, Roeland Park officials say they will have to raise property and sales taxes to replace much of the tax money Wal-Mart once created.

Getting back to Perry, Brownback and Missouri, the whole attitude that it’s OK to “compete” by giving a few companies better tax rates than others isn’t the best way to create net new jobs.

But that’s too often not the goal. Perry and others want the publicity that comes when they make it appear they are doing everything they can to whip up new jobs.

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