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Our Opinion: Truce needed to end ‘border war’ casualties

News Tribune editorial

Time for a truce.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday called for a moratorium in the ongoing border war with neighboring Kansas on economic development incentives.

As a result of the conflict, the states are eroding their tax revenues and, in some cases, simply enticing businesses to move from one side of the state line to the other. And in the heat of competition, some elected officials are losing sight of the ultimate goal, which is to attract new businesses, new taxes and new jobs. What has been dubbed the “border war” also has been characterized as a “race to the bottom.”

In a speech to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Nixon said: “This problem — unique to this region — of taking jobs that already exist and treating them as if they’re brand new, is the unintended consequence of incentive programs in both states, and all of us have a shared responsibility to fix it.”

Nixon outlined a two-step action plan.

The first step is an immediate moratorium in the Kansas City metropolitan area on the use of incentives that merely shift jobs across state lines. Second is for Nixon and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to work with lawmakers to pass legislation to make the moratorium permanent.

Brownback not only welcomed Nixon’s idea, the Kansas governor said: “I have been open to resolving this issue for more than a year and in that time have been engaged in active discussion” with Nixon and members of the Missouri Legislature.

But talk is cheap. Action is needed, but it apparently will meet resistance on at least two fronts.

One will come from combatants with little appetite for ending the conflict. Among them is Kansas state Rep. J.R. Clays, R-Salina, who said: “Looks like Missouri is surrendering. Can’t compete with Kansas for jobs. We’ll continue to incentivize.”

Fighting words like that inflame rather than calm tempers.

Resistance to the moratorium proposal also is likely from lawmakers who seek to include the issue in a broader discussion about economic competition, taxation and incentives.

“It’s definitely a bigger, more complicated, more in-depth potential solution than saying, ‘Let’s call a truce,” said Missouri state Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

We agree that a wide-ranging discussion on economic issues is desirable and necessary. But that should not preclude a moratorium to end the border war’s tax revenue casualties.

Addendum

On Wednesday in this forum, I wrote an opinion/reflection about plans by the local Carmelite sisters to leave Jefferson City. I referenced a portrait unveiling years ago at the home of local artist Sabra Eagan attended by Carmelites from the St. Louis area. The following information from Sr. Mary Joseph, provincial superior, Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus-Central Province, fills in some missing information.

She wrote: “The picture by Sabra Eagan was of our Mother Foundress, Bl Maria Teresa of St. Joseph, who was canonized on May 13, 2006. She was the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus who used to own and operate St. Joseph’s Home on Main Street (now St. Joseph’s Bluffs). The last sister left the home on February 28, 2005. We are a separate congregation from the Discalced Carmelites who are now also leaving Jefferson City."

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