Kansas and Missouri
The new border war
Missouri calls for an economic truce with Kansas
I hear the tax breaks are good in Kansas
MISSOURI and Kansas are old rivals. In the 1850s thousands of Missourians rode into Kansas, seized polling stations at gunpoint and fraudulently elected pro-slavery candidates. The efforts of these “border ruffians” were a prelude to the civil war.
Today the rivalry is less bloody. Both states offer tax incentives to lure in companies from elsewhere. Because they share a large metropolitan region, Kansas City, many firms qualify for such breaks simply by shifting a mile or two over the border.
Looking at the biggest type of sweetener, the Hall Family Foundation, a charity, estimates that over the past five years the two state governments have forgone $217m in taxes. Some 3,289 jobs have been tempted across the metropolitan border to Kansas; Missouri has won 2,824 jobs back. Kansas can therefore claim to be “winning”. But local reports suggest that CBIZ, a Kansan consulting firm, is considering moving to Missouri; that would erase this lead.
None of this border-ruffianry creates new jobs. Locals gripe that when, for example, AMC Theatre recently moved its headquarters out of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, its staff simply had a longer commute to work. Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, describes the new border war as “short-sighted”. Kevin Collison, a reporter for the Kansas City Star, calls it “cannibalistic”.
A few years ago local business leaders from 17 companies, including Sprint and Hallmark Cards, wrote to Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri, and Sam Brownback, his counterpart in Kansas, to warn them that the rift was harming the area. In the past month, a truce has started to look likelier. Majorities in the Missouri House and Senate have approved versions of a bill that would bar incentives for businesses near the border to hop over it. The catch, though, is that this law will go into effect only if Kansas reciprocates. There is a two-year window for a deal to be done.
Missouri Senator Ryan Silvey, a Republican who is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, says he is confident the House will soon pick up and pass his version. Over in Kansas, Mr Brownback is guardedly optimistic. He says he has thought for some time that “ceasefire negotiations” were needed, and that this bill is a “necessary condition for us to negotiate”. Mr Brownback says that ceasefire discussions ought to consider all the tools used to encourage economic development on both sides of the border. These would include income and property taxes.
It is difficult to understand why either state would want to continue throwing money at a scheme that benefits only the companies that move. Mr Silvey explains: “When people feel like they are locked in competition they just want to win, even when the competition is stupid.” Since Missouri's annual budget is $26 billion to Kansas's $14 billion, some Missourians ask why their state does not simply outspend its neighbour to win the war. Mr Silvey says that if an agreement is not reached in the next few years, his colleagues will want to “go with both barrels” and steal more business from Kansas. Move quickly Kansas, or the border ruffians may yet ride again.
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4.start to 开始
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