New article on tax increment financing in Missouri shows impact of KS/MO border war

After several years of work, my colleague Susan G. Mason (Boise State University) and I have published a new article on TIF in Missouri, specifically in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas. “Exploring Patterns of Tax Increment Financing Use and Structural Explanations in Missouri’s Major Metropolitan Regions” appeared in the July 2018 edition of the HUD journal Cityscape, downloadable for free here. We omitted the two cities from our earlier statistical analysis (in the paywalled Economic Development Quarterly, May 2010) because they are much larger than any other Missouri city and use TIF far more than any of them, making them statistical outliers.

In our earlier article, “Tax Increment Financing in Missouri: An Analysis of Determinants, Competitive Dynamics, Equity and Path Dependence,” we found that early adopters of TIF tended to be heavier users of TIF far past the first TIF adopted, that TIF as used in Missouri exacerbated inter-jurisdictional inequity (cities with higher poverty rates were less likely to use it than cities with lower poverty rates), and we found strong evidence for competitive dynamics in the use of TIF: Cities that were adjacent to a TIF-using city were two and a half times as likely as average to use TIF themselves, and implement more TIF projects.

The new article is an exploratory study, as it is impossible to generalize from two cases. But one thing we established clearly, based on complete data from 1988 to 2013 for St. Louis, and from 1988 to 2012 for Kansas City, is that Kansas City’s tax increment financing projects are marked by much higher aid intensity (the EU term that equals subsidy/investment) than those of St. Louis. Indeed, even excluding 2009 in St. Louis, which was marked by several multi-billion projects with low aid intensity (and at least in the case of Northside Regeneration, had substantial state funding not reflected in Exhibit 4 of the article), the overall average aid intensity, ex-2009, is 17%.

By contrast, in Kansas City, the average aid intensity of the city’s TIF projects comes to a whopping 36%,* more than twice as much. Everyone we interviewed on the question considered that there is much greater competition for investment with Kansas than with Illinois in the two metro regions. The difference in aid intensities is consistent with this thesis.


These points take on renewed importance as Missouri’s Governor Mike Parson is convening the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in Kansas City this week. As you may recall, Missouri and Kansas came close to a truce in the border war in 2016, but it collapsed when Governor Sam Brownback proposed legislation that did not match what Missouri passed in 2014. Since Missouri has a new governor now and Brownback will be replaced in 2019, there is renewed optimism that a binding halt can be brought to the use of state subsidies in the border war.

The Governor’s Conference will include a panel Friday on the border war in which I’ll take part. We will discuss the background, data on the cost of the border war, and a potential solution. I will also point out that TIF is impacted by the border war, too. It will be great to try to persuade lawmakers and the governor.

Unfortunately, the cost to attend is prohibitively expensive, but I will report back next week.

* The mandatory typo occurs in Exhibit 3, Kansas City, in the line summarizing 1988-2006. First, the correct amount for total TIF reimbursement is $3,527,420,262, excising the stray “1” in the millions area. The correct aid intensity for that period is 36%, not the 21% listed and probably copied from the previous line.