Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback last week called on Missouri lawmakers to help bring about a truce in the economic border war between the states by passing legislation curtailing a business incentive program called Missouri Works.
On Wednesday, he got his answer.
“Do I have any desire to amend the Missouri Works program?” said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican.
“No. I don’t.”
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Brownback said last week that his administration would refrain from offering Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) grants to lure existing jobs from Jackson, Clay, Platte, Cass and Ray counties in Missouri to Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth and Douglas counties in Kansas.
Since 2009, 5,702 jobs have moved from Jackson County to Johnson or Wyandotte counties using PEAK incentives, and 3,998 jobs have moved from Johnson or Wyandotte counties to Jackson County with Missouri Works incentives.
But under Brownback’s proposal, incentives would still be made available to companies that invest at least $10 million in a new building. And the truce offer didn’t include any changes to the STAR bonds program, which allows municipalities to issue bonds to finance commercial, entertainment and tourism areas and to use sales tax revenue generated from the development to pay off the bonds.
“They would still be offering state incentives to businesses to relocate from Missouri to Kansas,” said Rep. T.J. Berry, a Clay County Republican. “A truce would mean making the Kansas City area a neutral zone where no state incentives are granted to companies hopping the border.”
In response to the Missouri lawmakers, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said in a statement, “The governor offered a workable plan to end the border war that would have benefited both states by leveling the economic development playing field in the Kansas City area.
“The governor will only support a plan that he feels is in the best interest of his constituents, and he fully expects the elected officials in Missouri to do the same,” Hawley said.
Missouri lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation aimed at ending the border war in 2014. It would prohibit the use of any incentives for border-jumping businesses in specific Kansas City area counties, as long as Kansas agreed to a similar arrangement by Aug. 28, 2016.
Not long after the legislation was signed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, then-Kansas commerce secretary Pat George said the state had no plans to accept the offer.
“We’ve already passed a truce back in 2014,” Berry said, noting that Kansas still has four months to accept the terms of the truce before the 2014 deal expires. “He’s had two years and then waits until just before we adjourn (for the year). We can’t do anything now. It’s not possible.”
Berry speculated that Kansas’ budget woes were the real motivation for Brownback’s new efforts to end the border war. Brownback recently ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for schoolteachers and community college employees.
Richard called Missouri Works “one of the finest economic development programs in the country.” He said he is reluctant to change the program unless a much better offer is put on the table.
Nixon’s office said last week that it was studying Brownback’s offer. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the governor said a review continues.
The Star’s Edward M. Eveld contributed to the report.