Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pulled no punches this week supporting the push by Kansas to lure business and investment from the Missouri side of the metropolitan area in a speech before a local conservative group.
“It is critical for us to win the battle for Kansas City,” the governor told the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives on Tuesday. “If you look at the entire state of Kansas…our long term growth opportunity, our best opportunity in the state is right here, so we’ve got to be competitive.”
Many area civic leaders have described the so-called Border War as detrimental to the overall regional economy, contending it adds no new net jobs to the metro and siphons tax revenues used as incentives for companies to relocate.
But for Brownback, it’s all about where Kansas sees an opportunity to counteract the decline in other sectors of its economy, notably agriculture, oil and the Wichita-centered aviation manufacturing industry.
“For 18 years in a row we lost adjusted gross income to Missouri. With this new tax policy in place in two years we made up for all the loss we (had) for 18 years,” he said. “This thing has worked, it has worked incredibly well.
“What is hasn’t done is have a whit of difference on the global price of oil or wheat…Our revenue is down, the ag and the rural and the oil stuff is not coming in. It’s bad.”
The governor said Johnson and Wyandotte Counties have been the bright spot in an otherwise dismal state economy.
“Thankfully in Kansas City we’ve had a 10 percent growth in sales tax receipts and our payroll taxes are coming in well, people are getting hired,” he said. “What we haven’t seen, you go west of Wichita and it’s tanked.”
And Brownback said the effort by Kansas to lure the American Royal to the Village West area of Wyandotte County is part of greater plan to make the state a global center for agriculture science.
“For the first time, a piece of the American Royal is going to Kansas, the barbecue will be at the Kansas Speedway,” he said. “We’re hopeful to move the whole thing and working aggressively to do that.
“We think we can build an agriculture technology enterprise zone around the American Royal. We have the best animal geneticists in the world. There’s no reason we can’t be the center of agriculture for the world.”
The governor said the income tax cuts and exemptions for small businesses approved in 2012 had led to a “record number” of new small businesses coming to Kansas, most of them from Missouri.
“When I signed the tax cuts in Johnson County, the day before (Missouri Gov.) Jay Nixon had vetoed the tax cuts in Missouri,” Brownback said. “That’s the two messages we’ve seen.
“We’ve seen wealth move, we’ve seen better private sector growth and wage per hour is going up more on the Kansas side. We’re in a much better position.”
And despite his gloomy overview of the state’s rural economy, Brownback said he and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer remained upbeat.
“Jeff and I came in and wanted to change the paradigm for growth for the state,” he said. “We’d been declining as a state in relevant percent of the U.S. population for 40 years.
“It seemed for a long period of time, we were ‘well OK, that’s just the way it is. We’re a farm state…and rural areas are depopulating and that’s just the way it’s going to be.’
“We came into office and said ‘no, it doesn’t have to be that way.'”
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