Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Border War borders on stupid

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Border War borders on stupid

Well, actually it doesn't border on stupid. It's actually stupid.

It's a moving tally, but Kansas has "stolen" thousands of jobs from Missouri this year. And Missouri has followed suit by "stealing" thousands of jobs from Kansas. By stealing, I mean each state is paying companies millions of dollars over the course of several years to move a few miles across the state line. 

Examples: Kansas provided $40-some million in incentives to AMC Theatres to move from Kansas City, Mo., to Leawood. Not to be outdone, Missouri offered Freightquote $7 million, plus an undetermined amount of payroll tax deductions likely worth even more, to move from Lenexa to Kansas City. 

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. To the tune of more than $150 million in tax incentives this year alone.

Kansas has given away $132 million in incentives to "create" 3,109 jobs in Kansas. Meanwhile, Missouri has offered $60 million in subsidies to move 2,514 jobs across the state line. 

So far, Kansas is winning, but the win feels kind of empty from this end. Kansas paid approximately $323,000 extra per job for the additional 595 jobs.

And, let's not forget -- these aren't new jobs. There was no great, big job fair to fill new positions. It's just these company's existing employees now travel to a different location for work. 

The fact that we're playing this game is mind boggling. Personally, I can't imagine any business choosing to locate in KCMO given a realistic opportunity to NOT be located there. In KCMO, employees pay a city income tax; the schools are garbage and you're likely to get shot if you stay in town after the sun goes down. Unfortunately, that's not the sell-job Kansas officials are doing when they lure businesses from KCMO to Johnson County. Despite pretty obvious benefits of doing business here as opposed to there -- no city sales tax, good schools, more educated workforce, etc. -- Kansas officials wad up their panties and throw them at existing Missouri businesses, and as the panties suggest -- everything is on the table. Limited or no property taxes? Check. State income payroll tax deductions? OK. Getting to keep your sales tax (TIF)? Sounds good. And so Missouri gives as well as it gets and offers the same and/or more.

Meanwhile, the regular, old citizens who have no designs on building a strip mall or sparkling office building (that will likely one day sit empty when the incentives run out) are stuck subsidizing the bill. New buildings and employees require infrastructure -- streets due to new traffic; sewers for you know, human waste. That stuff isn't free. Someone has to pay it, and it's you, simpleton taxpayer. 

So pardon me if I don't do a happy dance when I learn we're "winning" the Border War. It kind of feels like a loss.

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