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Public Statements

Governor's Remarks to Kansas City Chamber Luncheon

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Thank you, and good afternoon. I want to thank Jim Heeter and the Kansas City Chamber for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today and for your leadership and commitment to the Kansas City region.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you all, and to taking your questions, but first I wanted to take a moment to talk about how far we've come, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

As your Governor, I've made it a priority from Day One to create jobs for Missouri families by making our state a better place for businesses to grow and invest. That's why, as other states responded to economic challenges by undertaking risky fiscal experiments, increasing taxes, or going into debt - here in Missouri we took a different approach.

We made government smaller, smarter and more efficient - cutting $1.8 billion in spending and eliminating 4,500 government positions. This commitment to fiscal discipline allowed us to balance the budget each year without raising taxes. In fact, we cut taxes in targeted, strategic ways designed to spur growth and create jobs.

And even during the height of the recession, our commitment to investing in education never wavered - because we know it's the best economic development tool there is. That's why we made historic investments in our K-12 classrooms and increased funding for worker training by more than 50 percent.

All this has made Missouri a great place to do business, with a highly favorable - and predictable - business climate and an outstanding workforce.

Today, Missouri has the 5th lowest taxes per capita in the nation -- lower than every single one of our neighboring states.... Our perfect Triple-A credit rating was recently reaffirmed by all three major rating agencies.... And for the fourth year in a row, we've been named a Top 10 state for business.

There's a reason we've pursued these proven, time-tested fiscally responsible strategies: they work.

For 48 consecutive months, our unemployment rate has been below the national average.

Last year, Missouri beat out states like California and New York with the third fastest rate of technology job growth in the nation.

And a Missouri auto industry that was once on the ropes continues to roar back to life. Ford and General Motors, which had already undertaken historic expansions at their plants in Claycomo and Wentzville, this year announced plans to put even more Missourians to work at those facilities.

Together, we've made solid progress... but we've got more work to do. The competition we're in is worldwide - and to win it we'll need to continue to raise our game.

We need more students graduating from college and ready to succeed in careers on Day One... We need more workers with the skills high-growth industries demand ... we need more entrepreneurs turning their ideas into cutting-edge enterprises... and we need to create more jobs, more quickly in an economy that is still shaking off the effects of a crippling recession.

To accomplish these goals we'll need a coordinated, all-hands-on-deck effort to transform our economy for the 21st century... and we'll need to overcome the obstacles that are preventing our state from reaching its full potential.

We see one of those obstacles right here in the Kansas City region. Over the years, we've seen a competition between Missouri and Kansas in which both states have given companies incentive packages to move from one side of the state line to the other.

Now, make no mistake, these economic development incentives were designed with the best of intentions-as a way for us to partner with companies that are creating new jobs and making new investments.

And in most cases, across our state, that is exactly what they do. From Monsanto creating 675 new jobs in St. Louis to Ford's record $1.1 billion investment over in Claycomo, the smart, strategic deployment of these tools help businesses to create good jobs and generate a positive return on investment for taxpayers.

But here, in one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas separated by a state line, these tools have been abused- manipulating the market and allowing a select few companies to reap a windfall at taxpayer expense simply by moving from one side of the border to the other - without creating a single new job in the region.

That's bad for taxpayers. It's bad for our state budgets. And it's bad for our economy - hampering our ability to compete as a region globally.

This problem - unique to this region - of taking jobs that already exist and treating them as if they're brand new, is the result of a flaw in the incentive programs in both states...and all of us have a shared responsibility to fix it.

Now, I've been to my share of ribbon cuttings for so-called "line jumpers" ...and I'm sure some of you have considered or even taken advantage of these incentives.

That's why I stand before you not to assign blame, but to propose solutions. This so-called "border war" between our two states has gone on long enough. So today, I'm announcing what I've proposed to our friends in Kansas to end it.

First, an immediate moratorium on the use of discretionary incentives where jobs are merely being moved across the state line. Although solving this issue once and for all will require legislation in both states- in the meantime there is no reason another dime of taxpayers' money should be spent to subsidize this kind of illusory economic activity.

Second, that both Governors will work with their respective legislatures to pass legislation to make a complete moratorium permanent.

Third, that local officials throughout this region be encouraged to end the use of local tax dollars in similarly inefficient and counterproductive ways.

Finally, we have proposed a number of specific, concrete ways in which our states can work together to leverage our combined resources to promote the Kansas City region as a whole. From energy and education to trade and transportation - there are many areas ripe for greater cooperation and collaboration between our states.

Take for example the internationally-recognized Animal Health Corridor that runs from Columbia, Missouri to Manhattan, Kansas. The corridor represents the world's largest concentration of animal health companies - from global brands to small startups. For this thriving industry sector that spans two states and serves the world, the state line is irrelevant in the interconnected worldwide economy in which our animal health companies compete.

A company called Yanfeng USA is another example of how economically interdependent our states are in the Kansas City region.

This leading automotive parts supplier is building a new plant in Missouri, but its biggest customer is GM's plant across the state line in Fairfax, Kansas. With GM's significant expansion at Fairfax, Yanfeng will have to up production in Riverside - it's a win for this region and a win for both states.

For more than a year, my administration has been working with business and community leaders and with Governor Brownback's administration in an attempt to forge an agreement along these lines to end the border war. I hope that we can reach an agreement soon - because on an issue as important as the economic growth and vitality of the Kansas City region, there is simply no time to waste.

Folks who know me know I'm a competitive guy. And as a proud Mizzou alum - I can trash talk the Jayhawks with the best of 'em.

But the competition with the highest stakes... the one we simply cannot lose... isn't between Kansas and Missouri, or between Jackson County and Johnson County. It's with Brazil and China; Russia and South Korea; Germany and India.

And while we spend precious time and resources engaging in petty skirmishes along the state line - we are losing ground in the one battle that really matters: the global competition for the jobs and industries of the future.

Every dollar we spend moving a job from one part of the region to another - is a dollar we can't spend to help create new jobs ... strengthen our research and infrastructure capacity... or market Kansas City's advantages to the world.

Most importantly that's a dollar we're not investing in our schools and our students - the best economic development tools we have for competing - and winning - in the global economy.

Let me talk for just a moment about what that global competition looks like. In Canada, 56 percent of adults already have a college or university credential, compared to just 39 percent here in Missouri. India and China each graduate roughly a million engineers - every year. And in every other highly developed country in the world, students pay lower tuition than they do in the United States.

At a time when two-thirds of all hiring managers in our country say recent college graduates aren't ready for the workforce, the evidence is overwhelming that if our students and workers aren't prepared for 21st century careers, our businesses will not thrive...and our economy will fall behind.

Nothing will have a greater impact on the strength of our economy than the investments we make now in education.

That's why, earlier this fall I was here in Kansas City to announce strategic investments to give more children access to quality preschool programs. By helping children Start Smart, we'll make sure they are ready to learn in school - and succeed in life.

That's why we're increasing funding - and raising standards - for our K-12 schools. My budget for Fiscal Year 2015 will make a significant down payment on my commitment to fully fund the foundation formula before the end of my term as your Governor.

That's why, through investments in higher education, we are preparing thousands of students for careers in growing fields like health care and advanced manufacturing. In fact, our Innovation Campus initiative is now a national model for strengthening the ties between what students learn in the classroom, and the skills they will need in the workforce.

That's why we have worked to make college affordable for more families, holding down tuition increases at our public four-year colleges to the lowest level in the nation.

And that's why I was pleased to see a bipartisan coalition come together to sustain my veto of House Bill 253 - a reckless experiment that would have undermined permanently our ability to make these vital investments in human capital.

These are important steps toward making sure every Missouri student graduates ready to succeed in college and the career of his or her choice and building an economy that will continue to grow and thrive for generations to come.

From Thomas Jefferson's call for a public education system that would protect our young republic from tyranny and oppression, to the G.I. Bill's contribution to driving a postwar economic boom and creating the modern middle class - education has always been central to the health of our democracy, and the strength of our economy.

That is how we became the undisputed leader of the free world. That is how we will attract and grow high-tech, high-growth industries of the future. And that is how this region will realize its full potential - not just as a top-tier city in the Midwest or in the nation, but as one of the premier centers of innovation and entrepreneurship in the world.

Moving forward my administration will continue to focus on finding common ground for the common good - so we can tackle the big challenges together.

Providing good jobs in the Kansas City region. Quality schools for our kids. And a competitive and predictable climate for businesses to grow and invest.

I appreciate the continued support and leadership of the Kansas City business community on these critical issues ... for the people of the Kansas City region, and for our entire state.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon. And now, I'd be glad to take your questions.


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