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Monday, April 18, 2016

Breakthrough in Kansas-Missouri Border War

Via @goodjobsfirst, we learned Friday that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback had made a major response to Missouri's proposed jobs truce in the Kansas City region.

As regular readers may recall, studies have shown that more than $200 million has been spent moving jobs back and forth across the state border in the Missouri and Kansas counties surrounding Kansas City. This is to create 0 new jobs. Despite this being perhaps the country's second-largest border war after the New York City area, Governors Jay Nixon (D-Missouri) and Brownback (R-Kansas) in December 2012 both told New York Times reporter Louise Story, on camera, that they had no plans to end the incessant job piracy.

Nevertheless, in July 2014, Nixon did an about-face, signing a bill from the majority-Republican legislature to end the availability of state subsidies to be used for such job poaching. Unlike the voluntary no-raiding agreements I have discussed on previous occasions (Council of Great Lakes Governors, NY-NJ-CT, Kansas-Missouri, and even Australia's Interstate Investment Cooperation Agreement), this has the force of law. The four counties making up Kansas City would be completely barred from using state subsidies to give relocation subsidies to companies in four bordering Kansas counties, if Kansas passes comparable rules.

Now, facing an August 2016 deadline in the Missouri law for the truce to take effect, Brownback ordered the Kansas Department of Commerce to disapprove PEAK (Promoting Employment Across Kansas) subsidies for job piracy, and asking for legislation to formalize this policy.

Brownback's proposal differed from the Missouri law by allowing PEAK subsidies (and the corresponding Missouri Works program) to be used for piracy if a company invested at least $10 million in new construction. While this means really large projects would not be affected by the truce, it would kill off the dozens of deals made by what Brownback called "lease jumpers," who simply move from a leased facility in one state to a leased facility in the other to cash in on the subsidy programs.

Good Jobs First today lauded the progress on the truce, noting the five years of both public and behind-the-scenes work by Hallmark and 16 other prominent Kansas City companies to promote sanity. Good Jobs First, of course, has conducted a great deal of research on job piracy, including the 2013 report, The Job-Creation Shell Game. Executive Director Greg LeRoy expressed hope that this potential agreement would be "a wake-up call" for the National Governors Association, which he called "MIA" on the issue of job piracy since 1993.

This is not yet a done deal. However, the proposal to meet legislation with legislation would create an unprecedented advance in stopping job piracy.