Missouri House votes to end economic border war with Kansas

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | 2:28 p.m. CST; updated 11:48 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 4, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, that would attempt to curtail what he calls the “economic border war” of giving businesses incentives to move between Kansas and Missouri.

The bill passed by a margin of 151 to 3.  

Both states have been trying to undercut each other to get businesses to switch across the border to get slightly better tax cuts. Jones said this war between the two states has only resulted in businesses shifting jobs back and forth across State Line Road, which separates Kansas and Missouri.

"I’ve traveled the entire state for many years, and I’ve seen firsthand what this economic small ball has done to our western border,” Jones said. “It has not created that good business climate to create net new jobs and net new businesses and net new opportunity."

Jones said this ceasefire would be helpful to all small businesses and not just those on the border.

"I actually do think that this would have a positive effect on all the small businesses in the state because we would stop using incentives in one region of our state to the detriment of businesses all across the state," Jones said.

Jones said it costs the state about $300,000 in incentives per job created in this border war.

Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City, represents a district on the border to Kansas and agrees that this battle between Kansas and Missouri needs to stop.

"We’re winning this war, but we can’t afford to keep going at this rate and neither can Kansas," he said.

The bill specified that Missouri will stop these business incentives only if Kansas takes a similar action to stop offering incentives for businesses to relocate from Missouri to Kansas.

McManus said he has talked with lawmakers from Kansas about working together to try and stop the economic fighting.

"Our hope is to get the ball moving and apply some pressure, so that they see that we’ve actually taken the legislative action. So we are moving forward, and the ball is in their court."

Even though the bill would stop the state governments from offering incentives for businesses to switch states, it wouldn’t have any effect on the local governments from continuing to try and undercut each other. McManus said the practice will continue, but this is a good first step in the right direction.

"Our goal should be bringing jobs to our region and competing with other countries in this global economy, not with other states," McManus said.

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