Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is stepping up efforts to end the Missouri-Kansas struggle over business incentives that local officials say have cost both states tax revenues without substantially adding jobs in the metro area.
“Neither state is a winner in this game,” said Donald J. Hall Jr., president and chief executive officer of Hallmark Cards, at a brief bill-signing ceremony at Union Station.
Nixon signed a bill that calls for an end to such incentives from the state of Missouri if companies merely move from one metro location to another. He said that often creates a windfall for the companies without creating any new jobs.
Nixon said the dispute has gone on “far too long” and said the Kansas City area needs to look at global competition, rather than a Missouri vs. Kansas competition.
“We’ve got to find our place in the world, not just the region,” he said.
“Our real competition is Dallas and Denver, Brasilia and Beijing,” added Roshann Parris, chair of the board of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber sponsored Tuesday’s event at Union Station, which officials cited as a symbol of past bi-state cooperation. Union Station was saved and renovated when voters in five counties on both sides of the state line approved a tax for it in 1996.
“This historic landmark is testament to what this region can do when people work together,” Nixon said.
The area would benefit from an attitude of cooperation in support of efforts that improve the region, he said, pointing out that he supported the University of Kansas Medical Center’s designation as a national cancer center and supported bringing the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility from New Jersey to Kansas State University.
Officials have said the dispute over business incentives is costly. The Hall Foundation looked at each state’s main incentive program and how those affected Jackson County in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. It found that more than 6,000 jobs have moved across the state line in recent years at a cost to taxpayers, in both states, of $212 million. Kansas was slightly ahead, with a net gain of 465 jobs – but at a cost that works out to $301,000 apiece.
The new law bars incentives for businesses moving between Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass counties in Missouri to Wyandotte, Johnson, Douglas or Miami counties in Kansas but only takes effect if Kansas enacts similar legislation.
“And so it will take action by both states to implement it,” Nixon said.
Kansas officials haven’t indicated they’re willing to do that. Commerce Secretary Pat George said Tuesday that the state wasn't considering changing its economic development policies but was “looking for solutions and common ground” with Missouri.
Nixon, who said he does have conversations with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, said the new Missouri law is just one step in a broader conversation.
“So I think philosophically we’re all on the same page,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.