Kansas City: Missouri’s Economic Albatross
In January, Kansas City Mayor Sly James testified before the Missouri legislature, saying,
It’s a bleak future without the Kansas City earnings tax. If the earnings tax ends, no Kansas Citian wins. And as Kansas City goes, so goes the region. If the region and St. Louis take a hit, so does Missouri.
Well, yes and no. Kansas City and St. Louis do play an oversized role in the state’s economic picture, but right now that role is not a positive one. According to a recent essay by The Show-Me Institute’s Michael Podgursky and Nick Pretnar,
In Missouri, where over half of output comes from the Saint Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas, the state’s economic fortunes as a whole are tied to the performance of those two cities. Unfortunately, Saint Louis and Kansas City have experienced very poor growth in recent years compared to major metro areas in other states. In addition, the Missouri portions of these two areas have performed worse than the Illinois and Kansas portions.
In short, Kansas City is a drag on the state and the region. It’s not just the Show-Me Institute saying this, by the way; the left-leaning Brookings Institution has been reporting the same thing for years.
Later in his testimony about a legislative effort to end the earnings tax, James said, “I’m not here asking for a penny. I’m simply asking you to leave us alone.” But Missouri may not be able to afford to leave Kansas City alone and allow it to bring down the rest of the state.
Podgursky and Pretnar conclude with, “Improved state economic growth will require much better performance by our two large cities. In terms of government policy, business as usual is not working.” Sadly, business as usual seems to be the only thing Kansas City leadership is offering.