Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly denounced Tuesday job growth results of $330 million in economic incentives handed out in the past decade to lure jobs back and forth across the state border cutting through metropolitan Kansas City.
Kelly referred to the border war as a "fiscally irresponsible" contest for bragging rights for which the winner earned the opportunity to portray the illusion of success, while Parson said it didn't take a rocket scientist to confirm the two-state competition that moved jobs around the chess board was "a bad deal for both states."
They joined forces at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce summit at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., to celebrate taking a new bi-state approach linking state-level business incentives to net job expansion. It doesn't mean an end to recruiting competitions between Kansas and Missouri, even in the metro, but the step was hailed by the governors as a way to stop hollow movement of jobs among four counties in Missouri and three counties in Kansas.
"I hope Washington, D.C., takes a good look at what happened here today," Parson said. "When a Republican and a Democratic governor can sit down together and do what's right for the people of our states."
The conservative GOP Missouri governor signed legislation in June restricting state tax incentives granted to companies in Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in Missouri. Kelly, a moderate Democrat from Topeka, responded with an executive order effective Aug. 28 outlining the net-job policy for companies in Johnson, Wyandotte and Miami counties in Kansas.
"Even though our states have been engaged in an economic tug-of-war on this very turf, we share the same goals," Kelly said. "We all want companies to set up shop and flourish in our states
She suggested Missouri and Kansas partner to bid on the opportunity to host 2026 World Cup soccer matches.
The Hall Family Foundation estimated the past decade cost Missouri and Kansas a combined $330 million for tax incentives related to border-war job grabs involving Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Jackson County in Missouri. The foundation estimated 10,000 jobs were shuffled between the two states within that urban core.
In response to the two-state solution, the board of the Port Authority of Kansas City agreed to limit incentives to businesses moving into Missouri to a period of 10 years to match the limit available in Kansas.
This wasn't the first time the states considered wisdom of the job conflict In 2016, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback proposed limiting the sweep of a state economic development program if Missouri restricted use of its incentive programs in the Kansas City area. No deal was completed.
Amy Liu, vice president and director of the metropolitan policy program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., told the audience at the summit Tuesday the current Kansas and Missouri governors ought to be lauded for working to end a senseless subsidy fight that produced few net jobs and imposed a large financial burden on taxpayers.
She said opportunity existed for Missouri and Kansas to usher in a new era of economic collaboration and reposition both states away from job-poaching initiatives.
"Luring jobs with tax incentives is a dinosaur activity," Liu said. "Close one chapter and start a new one."