Government & Politics

Kelly plans action to end Kansas-Missouri border war, after Parson signed truce bill

The other combatant in the Kansas-Missouri economic border war said Friday it was ready for a truce.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she is preparing an executive order ending the state’s use of financial incentives to lure jobs and employers across the state line. Her confirmation comes three days after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation barring the same practice.

Asked at a news conference if she plans to act to end the two-state competition, Kelly responded: “Yes, I do.”

Parson on Tuesday signed legislation to stop Missouri from offering tax incentives to companies that jump the border from Wyandotte, Miami and Johnson counties in Kansas. But it only goes into effect if Kansas agrees to stick by the same terms for Jackson, Platte, Clay or Cass counties.

“Missouri had to do it legislatively, and we can do it through executive order, and we’re looking at putting something like that together,” Kelly told reporters Friday. “I talked to folks, business leaders over in Johnson County, Wyandotte County, during the campaign and that was one of their major concerns, was that border war.”

Kelly was less forthcoming about her plans earlier this week. In a written statement after Parson signed the Missouri bill, Kelly said only that she was encouraged by a “renewed spirit of cooperation and collaboration between the two states.”

Kelly’s remarks on Friday came the day after the United States Department of Agriculture announced it would relocate two major research agencies – and hundreds of jobs – to the Kansas City area. Republican and Democratic leaders in both states hailed the news as an example of bipartisan, cross-border cooperation.

But USDA hasn’t announced yet whether it will locate the agencies in Kansas or Missouri.

Tim Cowden, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council, said in a statement that the cooperation on USDA “has no doubt contributed to this watershed moment in our region’s history.”

“We are so encouraged by the leadership demonstrated by both Gov. Kelly and Gov. Parson,” Cowden said. “We are so appreciative of their commitment to the cumulative growth of the KC region.”

Missouri state Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, who authored the Missouri bill, called Kelly’s comments good news.

“When Kansas and Missouri attract companies from outside the region, he said, their employees create economic activity by buying houses, spending money and enrolling their children in schools. But when the two states trade jobs back and forth, he said, “It’s costing the states a lot money without giving us the benefit of what we’re trying to get.”

Previous attempts to end the economic firefight have failed. In 2015, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declined to stand down after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a similar bill.

Over the past decade, Missouri spent about $151 million on incentives to attract companies from Kansas border counties to Jackson County. For its part, Kansas spent $184 million to bring companies from Jackson County to Johnson and Wyandotte counties, according to the Hall Family Foundation.

Parson’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Shorman reported from Topeka and Crystal Thomas contributed to this story