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Advocating for You - February, 2017








The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce advocates for its membership in Missouri, Kansas, Washington, D.C., and local government. Below are the highlights of activity in February.


FEDERAL


NAFTA: The KC Chamber has been meeting with businesses and area partners about the importance of strong advocacy supporting the value of the North American Free Trade Agreement to businesses across the greater Kansas City region. Last week the Chamber took part in a trade issue forum hosted by the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City and a small group meeting of heartland agriculture leaders to talk about a coordinated message and advocacy platform to support the 20-year-old tri-lateral agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Nearly 70 percent of Missouri's agricultural exports, and 36 percent of Kansas exports are shipped to Mexico and Canada each year, with the value of exports to Mexico alone coming in at nearly $2 billion for the two states in 2016.

Air Traffic Control System: The KC Chamber has called upon its members of Congress to support modernization of the country's Air Traffic Control (ATC) system in an effort to reduce flight delays and cancellations, improve flight times and safety, and reduce costs for businesses and consumers. In a letter to the delegation members, the Chamber has indicated its support for a thoughtful and transformative reform strategy based on international best practices similar to modernization models implemented in over 50 countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, which separate ATC service provision from ATC safety oversight.

Federal Policy Agenda 2017: The KC Chamber Board of Directors this week approved and adopted a 2017 Federal Public Policy Agenda focusing largely on tax and regulatory reform, trade, health care, and infrastructure. The approved federal agenda was created with guidance and input from 10 different Chamber committees, multiple community partners and recommended by the Chamber Public Policy Council and Federal Affairs Committee. The approved 2017 federal agenda will be used to guide all federal advocacy of the Chamber and shared throughout the year in meetings and correspondence with our members of the region's congressional delegation and their staffs.


MISSOURI


Bathroom bill update: SB 98, sponsored by Senator Ed Emery from Lamar, impacts schools, K-12 and requires that bathrooms should be designated in schools based on gender at birth. At a hearing in the state capitol last week, the issue was discussed at the Senate Education Committee. Concerned Women for America provided testimony in support and the Missouri NEA, ACLU, PROMO along with parents and students opposed. The KC Chamber, KC Civic Council, and City of KC testified as well noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has determined it will consider this issue in the coming months. The Chamber spokesperson also pointed out that issues such as this are generally considered detrimental to business development because they are viewed as discriminatory and non-welcoming. Similar bills are in play in a number of states throughout the country.

Missouri Technology Corporation: MTC's funding was cut from $22M to $5M in the latest round of cuts proposed by the Governor. MTC provides critical funding to foster new and emerging high-tech companies in Missouri. MTC funding supports high tech innovation centers across the state and invests in individual companies through the best in class IDEA Funds program. The KC Chamber is working with partners such as KCEDC, Source Link, Civic Council, and others to get the funds fully or partially restored. Now is the time to weigh in to Governor Greitens and state legislators that you support MTC and would hope to see funding restored. 


KANSAS


KanCare Expansion: KC Chamber President Joe Reardon testified before the Kansas House Health and Human Services Committee February 8 in support of House Bill 2064 to expand coverage under the state's Medicaid program known as KanCare. According to studies by George Washington University and data from the US Census Bureau, KanCare expansion would provide health coverage to 11,759 currently uninsured residents of Wyandotte County and 10,521 uninsured residents of Johnson County and would provide over $94 million in new annual health care spending in both counties. The Chamber told legislators that, as the state works to resolve a nearly $320 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, and a $580 million shortfall for FY 2018, the economic impact of KanCare expansion is vitally important to the KC Chamber and our businesses. The Chamber message included concern that, as the federal government grapples with the future of the ACA, Kansas should not lose a seat at the table to discuss replacement because it failed to expand KanCare. While HB2064 was tabled in committee after a close vote, on the House floor an amendment to adopt Medicaid Expansion was offered on a different healthcare bill and passed 81-44. This bill will now be sent to the Senate where it will start the process in the second chamber.

Income Tax Reform: While unsuccessful in support for an override of Governor Brownback's veto of House Bill 2178, a package of income tax reform measures providing a structural fix to the state's budget, the KC Chamber worked to support the bill's passage, encourage the Governor's signature and support an override in both chambers. The Chamber urged passage of the bill as an important opportunity to help return the state's income tax structure to its original intention of job creation while providing a more balanced and fair tax framework for all wage earners that would have improved the adequacy and consistency of state revenues. The Chamber will continue to advocate for measures to repeal the pass through non-wage income tax exemption, and institute a sound tax bracket structure with reasonable rates. The Chamber and its Healthy KC program have also been advocates for an increase in the tobacco tax, which would provide a valuable revenue stream and help improve the health and wellness of the Kansas workforce. Data show an increase in the tobacco tax is one of the most successful ways to improve smoking cessation and reduce health care costs for businesses and individuals.

Kansas State Affairs Meeting: Presenters from Kansas Action for Children and the Kansas Center for Economic Growth met with Kansas State Affairs committee members February 17 to talk about the importance of the Kansas Tobacco Settlement Agreement to provide critical funding for early childhood education in the state. While no bill has yet surfaced to sell off or securitize the settlement, the idea has been widely discussed as another one-time fix to find funds to fill the state's revenue gaps. The Chamber has advocated against securitizing the settlement that is vital to supporting the Children's Initiative Fund (CIF) which serves as an endowment for investments in early education, which is critical to the early stages of the workforce pipeline and the state's ability to produce a 21st century workforce.


LOCAL


UMKC’s Conservatory: The state funding match for funds generated locally for the UMKC Conservatory is finding support among legislators in the Missouri House and Senate. House Concurrent Resolution 19 (HCR 19) is a resolution to authorize the state to issue revenue bonds to match $48M of private and local funding generated for a new facility for the nationally ranked UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. As one legislative leader said, it’s like UMKC and thus the state of Missouri receiving a building for half the cost. A new UMKC Downtown Arts Campus is one of the Chamber’s Big 5 goals for Kansas City.   

The Bond Package: On April 4, KCMO voters will decide the fate of a major $800M infrastructure package proposed by the Mayor and Council. Basic infrastructure will be funded across the city if voters say yes to Questions 1, 2 and 3. A yes vote will allow the city to borrow a total of $800 million over the next 20 years to pay for badly needed upgrades and repairs...improvements such as streets, sidewalks, bridges, ADA-mandated repairs and improvements, flood control and other infrastructure. Each year the city will allocate $40 million for projects that address the most urgent needs. The Chamber supports all three of the questions listed below because a city must invest in its infrastructure to remain viable and build for the future.
  • QUESTION 1: Roads, bridges, and sidewalks
  • QUESTION 2: Flood control
  • QUESTION 3: Public buildings, improvements for persons with disabilities, the KC Museum and a new animal shelter to replace the 45 year old converted shed that currently houses the city’s animal control operation. 
You can find the ballot language here.