‘Border war’ back with a vengeance, as Kansas moves to lure Chiefs, Royals across Missouri line

The Missouri-Kansas border war is back on, maybe bigger than ever, with the Kansas Legislature’s decision Tuesday to offer tax incentives to lure the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals with new stadiums across the state line.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson had actually signed a “truce” in 2019 promising not to use subsidies to poach each other’s businesses, particularly in metro Kansas City, which straddles the border.

“For years, Kansas and Missouri taxpayers subsidized the shuffling of jobs across the state line that runs down the middle of the Kansas City metro area, with few new regional jobs to show for it,” the Brookings Institution wrote at the time.

Opined liberal magazine The American Prospect in 2019:

“Companies can make huge amounts of money in tax breaks and other perks by skipping over the Kansas-Missouri state line in the Kansas City area and taking economic-development subsidies. This has been nicknamed the economic ‘border war,’ with Kansas and Missouri state governments doing combat to lure businesses across the line – and artificially juice jobs statistics for their state.

“When companies collect on these subsidies, they’ve added zero jobs for the metro region – they’re just moving a few miles. The only winners in this scenario are the corporations that enjoy welfare subsidies for pitting states against one another.”

Now leaders in Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri are lamenting the end of the cease fire.

“Today’s vote regrettably restarts the Missouri-Kansas incentive border war,” wrote Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, “creating leverage for the teams, but injecting even greater uncertainty into the regional stadium conversation.”

“Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bonds,” explains the Kansas Department of Commerce, “are a financing tool that allows Kansas municipalities to issue bonds to finance the development of major commercial, entertainment and tourism projects. The bonds are paid off through the sales tax revenue generated by the development.”

Lucas argues Kansas’ plans for the bonds, approved in a special legislative session and expected to be signed by Kelly, are still very tentative.

“The vote provides only a speculative ability to sell bonds untethered to private funding plans, costs, locations, or discussion of the unknown consequences for taxpayers and existing businesses. We remain in the first quarter of the Kansas City stadium discussion,” Lucas said.

“This competition does not serve our residents or our communities,” Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. wrote in a statement. “Instead of working together to grow all our neighborhoods, we risk hurting the very people we are supposed to serve. …

“We must focus on common sense over politics. Our resources should be used wisely to improve the lives of our residents, not wasted on bidding wars that only serve to drain public funds and divide our region. By working together, we can create a stronger, more resilient community that benefits all our residents.

“I urge all stakeholders to honor the spirit of the 2019 truce and refrain from engaging in a counterproductive stadium bidding war. Let us set a national example by prioritizing the well-being of our residents and fostering true economic cooperation across state lines.”

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