A couple of weeks ago, the online magazine Slate suggested that St. Louis consider leaving the state of Missouri and moving to Illinois.
The idea isn’t new. From time to time, some St. Louisans — not all — have noted they have more in common with Illinois than the Show-Me State. If Illinois were to offer, say, a free football stadium, the deal might be sealed.
We’re not immune to this kind of speculation here. Every now and then, Kansas City thinks about jumping into Kansas, or Johnson Countians ponder a Missouri annexation. The idea comes up whenever local governments feel particularly slighted by state lawmakers.
Given today’s makeup of the Kansas and Missouri legislatures, of course, leaping across the state line makes as much sense as abandoning the grate for the barbecue pit. But there is another alternative, which I now modestly propose.
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The metro area should become the 51st state.
Sure, it sounds absurd. But a six-county state — Clay, Platte and Jackson in Missouri and Johnson, Wyandotte and Douglas in Kansas — would have almost as many people as Wyoming, Vermont and North Dakota combined. Our new state would be economically and demographically diverse. We’ve got hospitals, natural resources, a unified bus service, an earnings tax. We’ve got three major league sports franchises, more than Nebraska or Arkansas. We’re almost set.
Yes, we’d have to figure out the education thing. But school funding is already a mess. How much worse could we do? And we’d get two U.S. senators in return while eliminating the artificial line that impedes so much local progress.
Our new state — let’s call it Bliss — won’t come easily. State lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri would have to approve the deal, then Congress.
Missouri legislators, who sometimes see Kansas City as a nuisance, might say yes. Kansas is more interesting.
Kansas would lose a third of its population and more than a third of its revenue if the three counties left. That seems like a blow to a budget that’s already sinking.
Yet Kansas lawmakers seem committed to reducing state revenue to zero. Slicing off a huge slab of cash and giving it to a state of Bliss would help them out.
And a new urban state would have the added benefit of clarifying budget issues for rural Kansas lawmakers. Perhaps they would focus, keenly, on how education and public safety are actually paid for.
We need a capital. I’m thinking Liberty, Bliss.