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Missouri Lawmakers Try To End 'Border War' Between Kansas And Missouri

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio
Mo. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, presents his "Border War" cease fire bill on Feb. 5, 2014.

Two bills that would each try to end the so-called "border war" among business interests in the Kansas City area were heard Wednesday by two Missouri legislative committees.

House Bill 1646 and Senate Bill 635 are identical bills. Both would bar Missouri from offering tax breaks to businesses in Wyandotte, Johnson, Douglas, and Miami counties in Kansas as a means of luring them across the state line. If passed, the bills would only go into effect, provided that Kansas stops offering incentives to businesses in Jackson, Clay, Platte, and Cass counties in Missouri. Bill Hall, Hallmark executive and Hall Family Foundation president, testified in favor.

"There is nothing that creates more tension within the (Kansas City) metropolitan area than poaching," Hall said.  "The things we need to cooperate on, whether it's water or transportation or other issues, are all impacted by this shuffling back and forth of existing jobs and people poaching each other."

State Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, is sponsoring the measure in the Senate.

"Because of our regional situation, when you move across the state line, most times, it's not creating a new job," Silvey told the Senate Economic Development Committee.  "It's a job that already existed in the community."

The House version of the bill is sponsored by Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

"If these were net new jobs, that would be one thing," Jones told the House Special Standing Committee on Small Business.  "What all the data have shown is that these are not new jobs; the states are simply using their many different economic development incentives to shuffle existing jobs back and forth across the border, enticing companies to move them based upon who can offer the bigger and better deal."

A study commissioned by the Hall Family Foundation found that 3,343 existing jobs have moved from Jackson County, in Missouri, to Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas since 2009, at a cost of $141 million to Kansas in incentives.  It also found that during the same time span, 2,929 existing jobs have moved from Johnson and Wyandotte counties to Jackson County, Mo., costing the state of Missouri about $76 million in incentives.  Hall testified that the end result so far is a net gain of 414 jobs for Kansas.

No one testified against either bill during hearings Wednesday by the Missouri House and Senate committees.  Chris Pieper from Gov. Jay Nixon's office told both committees that they've also been working on an agreement with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to end the so-called Border War.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.