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Battle for Jobs May Be Nearing End

Kansas and Missouri may finally end their battle for jobs by signing an agreement that's being called historic. (
Kansas and Missouri may finally end their battle for jobs by signing an agreement that's being called historic. (
April 20, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - There's been a tug of war between Kansas and Missouri over jobs for years, but now there may be a resolution.

Both states have been trying to lure businesses around the Kansas City area to cross state lines by offering tax incentives. Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, said it's eroded the tax base, meaning less money for services, and taxpayers and other business have suffered. He said Hallmark and more than a dozen other businesses deserve credit for the agreement because they've been publicly calling the two states out, saying there should be an effort that supports everyone, not just large companies.

"Let's have good schools, let's have good infrastructure, let's have good pre-K and community colleges and so on," LeRoy said. "Let's not put a lot of eggs in any one basket; that's kind of risky. Let's not pick winners and losers so much. Let's try to grow the economy by trying to benefit lots of employers."

In 2014, Missouri offered a legally binding cease-fire to end huge tax breaks for companies that relocate. Kansas has been working on a counter offer that would allow the state to offer subsidies to interstate moves - but only if a company commits to spending $10 million or more for the construction of new buildings. The two sides are expected to sign the deal soon.

Leroy called the agreement historic.

"Never before had a state put a legally binding offer on the table the way Missouri did with Kansas," he said, "and if Kansas does come to a final agreement, never before have two states come to a legally binding deal to cease fire"

LeRoy said there's a lot of politics behind it. Many times, he said, lawmakers want to make their state's job-creation numbers look good, especially during election years, so they pirate jobs away from other states.

"The recovery from the recession was so slow and painful, lots of public officials were anxious to look aggressive on the economy," he said. "They wanted to take credit for deals, and I think that's really upped the pressure to get jobs where you can, even picking your neighbor's pocket."

LeRoy said other states and municipalities have been dealing with the same fight over jobs, including New York and New Jersey, Texas and Georgia, Memphis and Boston and their neighboring communities, and Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO