Advocating for You - February, 2019

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

KC Chamber Welcomes Congresswoman Sharice Davids: On February 19, the KC Chamber welcomed Kansas’ new 3rd District Congresswoman Sharice Davids. A capacity crowd filled the KC Chamber’s Boardroom in Union Station to meet the new representative and was greeted by a familiar face as veteran Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II introduced Congresswoman Davids. Congressman Cleaver expressed his excitement and admiration for the new Congresswoman’s attitude and work ethic in D.C. stating that she “wants to read the bills that come before her.” Congresswoman Davids shared insight into her life before politics and some of the things she has begun to work on already in Congress including her role on the House Transportation and Small Business Committee. The Congresswoman welcomed questions that ranged from the government shutdowns, to immigration policy, to transportation. The Chamber looks forward to working with Congresswoman Davids on regional priorities for the Kansas City area.

Chamber Signing onto NAFTA Ratification Letter: While negotiations around the updated NAFTA provisions have concluded, action by Congress is still required before states begin to see benefits from the new agreement. With a new Congress at work, the KC Chamber signed on to become a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s USMCA Coalition of over 150 companies, associations and chambers of commerce throughout the country to encourage the ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement. Ratification would authorize important changes to modernize the rules for trade in North America with respect to market access, digital trade, intellectual property, agriculture, and financial services. Last year the KC Chamber coordinated with fellow city and regional chambers in submitting a letter to the Missouri and Kansas congressional delegations urging the need to ratify the new USMCA provisions. In 2016, Kansas saw 36 percent of its exports, totaling $3.7 billion, go to NAFTA trading partners and Missouri had over half of the state’s exports, totaling $7.8 billion, reach our NAFTA partners. Across both states, jobs are created, economic growth is boosted, and local economies are strengthened in large part as result of trading with Canada and Mexico.

Federal Public Policy Agenda: The Chamber Board of Directors approved and adopted its 2019 Federal Public Policy Agenda at its February 25 meeting. The agenda was drafted with the guidance of several Chamber industry sector committees and regional advocacy partners and recommended for adoption by the Chamber’s Public Policy Council, an advisory committee that invests in the Chamber’s advocacy work at the local, state and federal levels. The Board asked for additional review and clarification of a position supporting regulatory relief measures and will revisit this agenda item at its March board meeting. The 2019 Federal Policy Agenda focuses on the following:

  • Sound Pro-Growth Economic Development & Fiscal Responsibility (international trade, financial services, small and emerging business support, immigration reform, Social Security);
  • Human Capital & Coordinated Workforce System (early childhood, K-12, higher education, and measures to improve the workforce pipeline for businesses);
  • Globally Competitive Infrastructure (transportation, water/waste water, energy, military, 2020 Census);
  • Accessible, Affordable Quality Health Care

The Chamber will use the approved Federal Policy Agenda in its March 5-7 DC Fly-In, including meetings with all four of the region’s US Senators, seven US House members and the US Department of Transportation.

KANSAS

Kansas Action for Children (KAC): The KC Chamber signed on to a letter from KAC partners advocating for greater investments in federal child care funding through increasing the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This block grant allows greater access to high-quality early childhood education and also increases access for quality child care services for working parents. Despite an increase in funding for FY 2018, funding remains nearly $1 billion short of the total funding level in FY 2001 when adjusted for inflation. The KC Chamber believes that quality early childhood education is vital to the overall outcomes for people and critical in preparing students for success in a 21st Century workforce.
 
Kansas Transportation Vision Task Force: On a snowy afternoon, the KC Chamber’s Kansas State Affairs Committee hosted House Transportation Committeeman, Rep. Tom Cox and members of the 2018 Kansas Transportation Vision Task Force including Mary Birch of Lathrop Gage and Cameron McGown of HNTB. Just a couple of weeks following the release of the Task Force's findings, the Kansas State Affairs Committee heard firsthand what the Kansas Legislature may do with the recommendations. The speakers discussed a wide array of recommendations made by the Task Force including the opportunity of Regional Mobility Authorities, micro-transit opportunities, the need to look closely at vehicle miles traveled (VMT) measures, reinstatement of the local bridge improvement program, and improvements to U.S. Highway 69 in southern Johnson County. Chamber members encouraged Rep. Cox and the task force members to advocate for shoring up state transportation funding and devoting ongoing appropriate investment in transportation infrastructure to help grow the Kansas economy, which includes moving the workforce to jobs.

MISSOURI

Workforce Development, Fast-Track & One Start: Workforce development has been a marquee issue for the Missouri legislature this year and the KC Chamber has been a leading advocate for two key components that will improve the pipeline of ready trained workers and improve training opportunities for businesses. The Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant and Missouri One Start Program have both made their way to the Senate and House floors for debate in recent weeks. Fast-Track, or House Bill 225, seeks to provide tuition and fee aid to adults 25 years for credentialed training in high demand and high growth careers and technical programs. Missouri One Start, House Bill 469, would integrate the state's three workforce-related business incentive programs into a more adaptable and effective framework to address regional workforce training needs. The legislation also creates a workforce development infrastructure fund to support job training facilities, equipment, programs and staff.

The policy proposals filed in the House have already made their way through committee and appear to have overwhelming support from the body ahead of floor votes. However, similar efforts on the other side of the Capitol have been met with some opposition. During debate on the Senate floor a number of amendments were offered to the Fast Track legislation, one of which include Missouri One Start in a floor substitute. Senators were unable to work through their differences and returned the bill to the calendar for further debate at a later time. The KC Chamber was on hand during committee hearings to testify in favor of the priority legislation, lending its voice and support of lawmaker’s efforts to strengthen Missouri’s workforce system. The KC Chamber will continue working with policymakers as they look to meet workforce needs across Missouri.
 
Chamber Supports Bridge Bonding Package: The KC Chamber applauds Governor Parson’s effort to provide some state relief for critical transportation challenges across the state and is encouraging policymakers to move with dispatch to look at all opportunities to address transportation infrastructure funding. Following the vote against Proposition D, a motor fuel tax increase, public, private, and civic leaders were left wondering how the state would address critical infrastructure needs in 2019 and beyond. During his State of the State address Governor Mike Parson announced his proposal for a bonding package to fix bridges across the state. If approved by the legislature, the $351 million bond would be used to repair or replace 250 bridges, four of which are directly in the Kansas City metro area. The Governor’s proposed bonding package was introduced and received committee hearings in both the Missouri House of Representatives and the Senate. The KC Chamber testified in support of the legislation and wrote directly to the Governor stating its support. It is our belief that the bonding package could free up additional state funds to address urban projects including several key Kansas City infrastructure opportunities.

LOCAL

Pre-K for KC Plan: The KC Chamber supports the passage of Pre-K for KC on the April 2 ballot in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chamber has long been an advocate for improving access to quality, Pre-K education as a long-term workforce development strategy that will help our future workforce be prepared for the 21st Century economy. While research indicates that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the time that child is five years old, data shows one in three Kansas City kids doesn’t have the skills they need when they start kindergarten. The Chamber believes by investing in children’s education at the beginning of the pipeline, Kansas City will be setting the foundation for students to be ready to learn by kindergarten, read at grade level by third grade, improve graduation rates, reduce crime rates and contribute to the region’s growing workforce opportunities. According to the Perry High/Scope study, for every $1 spent on early childhood education, society sees an estimated ROI of $13. Being a Chamber Big 5 Initiative, the KC Chamber looks forward to advocating for quality Pre-K programs in both Kansas and Missouri beyond the April 2 Kansas City, MO ballot initiative. If you would like to schedule an informational session with Chamber President Joe Reardon for your company or nonprofit on the business case for investing in increased access to quality Pre-K education, please contact Pam Ronfeldt.

KCI’s New Single Terminal: The Kansas City Council’s Airport Committee announced February 28 that five out of seven airlines and two out of three cargo’s serving KCI have signed on to the term sheet for construction of a new KCI terminal. The term sheet support set the stage for the February 28 City Council vote to approve the KCI Airport Terminal Modernization Project Development Agreement, the Developer Pledge Agreement, and the Community Benefits Agreement between the City Manager and contractor Edgemoor. The ordinance to approve the development agreement passed 11 votes to 1 with one councilperson not in attendance. The Chamber commends the City Council's interest in adopting the ordinance outlining the airlines' commitment to KCI through the term sheet and urges for construction to begin as soon as possible.

OTHER

Border War: The KC Chamber continues to advocate for a solution to end the economic incentives border war between Missouri and Kansas in an effort to protect taxpayer dollars and make sure that economic incentives are used solely for projects that create net new jobs in the Kansas City region. Since 2011, Missouri and Kansas have spent a combined $335 million in tax incentives to attract businesses to move (sometimes mere blocks) across the state line with no new jobs or economic boost created. See the Border War by the numbers below.

  • 5,526 existing jobs have moved from Kansas (Johnson or Wyandotte Counties) to Missouri (Jackson County) at a cost of $151 Million in Missouri Works incentives.
  • 6,729 exiting jobs have relocated from Missouri (Jackson County) to Kansas (Johnson or Wyandotte Counties) at a cost of $184 million in PEAK incentives from Kansas.