Border Conflict

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The Monty Python character expressed something that all politicians aspire to when he said, "To boost the British economy I'd tax all foreigners living abroad." Every elected official would prefer that any taxes be paid by someone who can't vote them out of office. It's not any different in Missouri, which recently triggered a war of words with its neighbor, Kansas.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is becoming irritated about a seemingly arcane provision in a recent tax bill signed by Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. The provision does what all states would love to do: It raises taxes on people who work in the state but live and vote somewhere else. And for the Kansas residents who work in Kansas City, Missouri, that means their taxes have been raised by people unaccountable to them.

Earlier this year, Governor Blunt signed into law H.B. 444, an ill-advised bill that created a tax break for better off seniors who receive Social Security benefits. Included in this legislation is a provision ensuring that anyone who works in Missouri, but lives out of state will no longer be allowed to write off their out-of-state property taxes if they itemize on their Missouri income tax forms. This means that many workers who live outside of Missouri will pay higher Missouri income taxes. This is a good thing for Missouri, which is struggling to provide adequate health care and education.

But if you're a policymaker in neighboring Kansas you'd quickly understand that workers who live in Kansas will actually pay less Kansas income tax because they can claim credits for taxes paid to other states. Governor Sebelius asked Governor Blunt to repeal this provision, which she says amounts to a tax increase on nonresidents.

Seeing that shots were being fired at him from the other side of the border, Governor Blunt relented partially and said that he'll support the provision's repeal in the 2008 legislative session. But it's really not clear that the Missouri legislature would relent at all. "What obligation do we have to Kansas people? Why would we want to give them a break on Missouri taxes?" one Missouri legislator said publicly. Kansas Rep. Kenny Wilk, chairman of the House Taxation Committee, is vowing to retaliate unless Missouri acts soon. He said, "Missouri just needs to decide whether they want to do this the hard way or the easy way. We will respond to make sure we recoup all "and plus a bit more... of what we're losing."

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