Our Opinion: Consider Kansas, but keep focus on Missouri

News Tribune editorial

The Missouri-Kansas “Border War” has shifted from athletics to economic development.

Legislative leaders said last week they will consider additional tax incentives for businesses to remain competitive with neighboring Kansas.

Until Mizzou’s switch to the Southeastern Conference, the rivalry between the two states focused primarily on Big 12 sports contests between the Tigers and Jayhawks.

But there also has been an economic incentives war raging out of the limelight, as both states worked to lure businesses.

Last year, Kansas lawmakers made substantial reductions in some of the taxes that Kansas-based businesses and industry will have to pay.

Missouri’s incoming majority leaders recently announced plans to up their game to remain competitive on the economic development playing field.

“Certainly what they’ve done on the Kansas side puts a lot of pressure on the economic development climate” in western Missouri, said Rep. John Diehl Jr., R-Town and Country.

The competition has been intense. An Associated Press analysis published in May found the two states have committed more than $750 million in monetary incentives during a five-year tug of war for business location or expansion in the Kansas City area.

Competition from Kansas is a consideration, but it must not be the driving force behind Missouri legislation.

Comprehensive reform of Missouri’s economic development tax credits and incentives has been on the agenda for years.

The reform effort was rejuvenated in earnest in 2010, when a review panel was created to examine the state’s 61 tax credit programs.

The panel advanced a 54-page report, with recommendations, to lawmakers who have discussed and debated — but not acted on — changes through two regular sessions and a special session.

We encourage Missouri lawmakers not to become singularly distracted by initiatives in Kansas. Trading punches eventually will relegate both states to diminishing returns on investments.

Although we must remain cognizant of our neighbor’s actions, our legislators must focus on the larger picture of what incentives are most effective and efficient for Missouri.

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