A Cease-Fire in the Kansas City Interstate Jobs War?

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by Kasia Tarczynska and Greg LeRoy

Good news just in from Kansas and Missouri—Governors of the two states are reportedly moving towards an agreement to stop the notorious Kansas City interstate jobs war. If a truce is declared, credit should go to a group of outspoken and tenacious Kansas City-area business executives who have acted on longstanding public outrage.

 For years, the two states have poached companies from each other, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on subsides to companies moving short distances within the same labor market. On June 13,  however, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was ready to talk to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, but under a condition that Missouri will agree to revise the “as-of-right” structure of its Quality Jobs program (Brownback claims that Kansas’ “discretionary” PEAK program is less problematic).

That might be a tough sale in Missouri legislature. However, according to a Kansas City Star editorial, there is an alternative on the table. Two states could simply prohibit subsidies for companies that move from certain counties in one state to certain counties in another state within the Kansas City region. Apparently “conversations have occurred” and 2 of the 17 local business leaders, who in 2011 urged  the two governors in a public letter to stop the war, now are performing “shuttle diplomacy.”

Good Jobs First has blogged on the Kansas City border war for years and detailed it in our January 2013 study The Job-Creation Shell Game. Indeed, Bill Hall, assistant to the chairman of Hallmark Cards, spoke at our tele-press conference, detailing the absurdity and ruinous costs of the war.

We welcome the news of ongoing negotiations and hope to blog soon about an effective cease-fire. And we repeat: the initiative in Kansas City was NOT taken by an elected official, by a Chamber of Commerce, or by a Business Roundtable—all of whom should take note and be inspired!