Nixon, lawmakers, see different paths on “border war” compromise


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In remarks to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Jay Nixon called for a moratorium of “discretionary incentives,” that reward companies for moving jobs from one state to another but create no additional jobs. Nixon said such incentives were detrimental to both Kansas and Missouri.

“Too often here in Kansas City, economic development tools that were designed to create jobs and generate real economic growth have the opposite effect — manipulating the market and hampering Kansas City’s ability to compete as a region globally,” Gov. Nixon said during his remarks.

However, Nixon’s remarks came as a surprise to local area civic leaders and lawmakers from both states that have been negotiating a deal to end the so-called-boarder war for months.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City area Republican, has been involved in negotiations with area leaders and representatives from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s

Sen. Ryan Silvey
Sen. Ryan Silvey

office since last May. Silvey intends to sponsor a bill during the upcoming legislative session in which both states would agree to end incentives for job moving around the Kansas City area on both sides of the border.

Silvey called Nixon’s proposal today a “non-starter.”

“In Kansas, the governor has very broad authority in rewarding incentives,” Silvey says. “Here in Missouri, we have benchmarks that must be met and that’s how an incentive is rewarded, not just by allowing the Governor to give it out. [Gov. Nixon] basically said today that we should give him the same authority as [Gov. Brownback].”

Silvey said Nixon was looking to broaden his own authority like Brownback in order to then reach an agreement with the neighboring state about rewarding job relocation. While the senator said he welcomed the governor’s involvement because they had “identical goals in mind,” he also said Nixon was “just suddenly deciding,” to become involved in the process.

“We have a path, a bilateral plan which requires action by both states and says both states can terminate the deal if the other one fails to do what it needs to do,” Silvey says. “That path doesn’t involve increasing Gov. Nixon’s discretion over economic incentives. So while we have the same goal in mind, I can tell you that our path has an opportunity in this legislature and [Gov. Nixon’s] does not.”

Gov. Jay Nixon
Gov. Jay Nixon

Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City area Democrat, will be the lead co-sponsor of Silvey’s bill, according to Silvey. Holsman declined to comment on the specifics of Nixon’s proposal, but said he’d welcome any solutions from Nixon’s office.

“The border war has been destructive and I certainly support the intent of the Governor to put an end to it. If he has proposals, things that can help solve this problem, then I’ll welcome that, because it is a serious problem and I think everyone agrees on that,” Holsman told The Missouri Times. “But until his proposals are clear or I see the plan, I can’t comment on it in terms of specifics.”

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Other lawmakers, like House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, also issued statements responding to Nixon. Schmitt is the chair of the senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee.

“We cannot have an honest conversation about the long-term economic prospects of our state and how we compare with our neighboring states without including lowering the tax burden for Missourians and small businesses. Allowing people to keep more of what they earn will grow our economy and our tax base, leading to greater prosperity for all Missourians,” Schmitt wrote. “I welcome discussing these matters further with our governor and working with my colleagues to provide long-term tax relief for all Missourians.”

Jones said that Nixon was putting “political power” ahead of state needs in his statement to the press.

“The simple truth is this: Governor Nixon’s record on jobs is not good.  Missouri has lost more than 30,000 jobs during his time in office, and he has done nothing to turn the tide.  Indeed, he has repeatedly stood in the way of efforts to make changes which would help put our economy back on track,” Speaker Jones said in his statement.”