Editorial: Border battle

A new survey of small-business owners indicates that tax cuts may not be the key to making Kansas or Missouri more attractive to business.

Some rivalries and competitions just are not destined to fade away. Kansas vs. Missouri is a case in point.

Sure, the annual Big 12 (and predecessor conference) athletic events have been tabled by conference realignment decisions, but the border between the states still spurs intense scrutiny by both parties, with each wanting to be aware of what’s going on across the line.

Missouri lawmakers, for example, are being urged by their business constituents to reduce income taxes to emulate Kansas. “Kansas is specifically targeting Missouri businesses. I believe if we do nothing, we’re going to lose Missouri businesses,” said a lawmaker who is a sponsor of the Show-Me state’s income tax cut proposal.

Missouri educators, on the other hand, are warning that such a “me-too” tax cut likely means reductions in revenues for schools — and they point to Kansas as an example. A St. Louis-based nonprofit organization has begun running ads opposing the tax cut, which it says would reduce Missouri’s revenues by $960 million annually.

The nonprofit might find some support for its position in the results of a nationwide survey of more than 7,000 small-business owners undertaken by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com, an online personnel service.

That survey showed that Kansas was rated friendlier to small businesses than Missouri, getting an A grade to Missouri’s C. However, that friendliness apparently wasn’t based on the survey’s “tax code” ratings, which were nearly identical for the two states: Kansas got a B+ and Missouri got a B-. “Some 7,000 business owners across the country have told us that they care about a lot more than just taxes. For most businesses, simple licensing regulations and helpful training programs are even more important to their success,” a survey spokesman reported. The survey measured a number of factors that should act as a guide for local governments, as well as states, seeking to be business-friendly.

The results indicate Missouri has work to do in some areas. Kansas outpaced its neighbor in nine of 11 categories: overall friendliness, ease of starting a business, regulations, employment/labor and hiring, tax code, licensing, environmental, zoning, and training and networking programs. The Sunflower State trailed in the categories of ease of hiring and health and safety.

All we need now is a marching band, cheerleaders, and biased announcers! Then let the games begin!