Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In the category of ideas that sound good until you actually think

Oh my goodness, but this would be a terrible idea. Our Legislative Post Audit agency looked into what the financial impact on the state would be if the state implemented a residency requirement for state employees. Currently, just under 3000 state employees do not live in Kansas. Most of those non-resident employees live in Missouri, but a few live in Oklahoma.

This makes sense because I would expect a lot of state employees work in the Kansas City, KS area and I have to say if I were one of them, I wouldn't want to live in KCK. Generally, of course, I think Missouri is a pit. The Kansas City suburbs on the Kansas side of the border and to the south of the city are a lot nicer, and have better schools, than their Missouri counterparts. But when it come to the city itself, KCMO has it all over KCK. I have said it before and I'll say it again: Kansas City is too cool a city to be stuck in icky old Missouri. But Kansas City, KS and its county, Wyandotte, are not somewhere I'd want to live. This northern part of the metro area isn't happy, bland, harmless suburbia, but impoverished blight characterized by drugs, gang activity, and family feuds. (Seriously, Wyandotte County has produced some highly entertaining, though tragic because someone died, family feud-type cases.)

One of the biggest KCK employers is the University of Kansas Medical Center. That hospital, though, is on the border. Literally. It edges State Line Road. That part of KCMO is pretty cool and if I were a doctor at that hospital, I would certainly think hard about living on the Missouri side. Also, I would guess if I were a resident, I would want to live pretty close, like in all of those rental properties within blocks of the hospital but on the Missouri side. So I would think a residency requirement would be hardest on that hospital. I think it might make it harder to recruit quality doctors if they wouldn't be allowed to live in some of the coolest neighborhoods near their place of employment.

But this idea (and as far as I can tell, this is still only an idea without a written bill attached) would be dumb for an even more obvious reason. Johnson County, one of the most populous counties in Kansas, is largely populated by people who work in KCMO. When I was a kid, we lived in JoCo (for the schools) when my dad worked at the Kansas City Board of Trade. In Missouri. An awful lot of my friends' parents also worked in Missouri. I'd guess some of those JoCo residents who work in Missouri are state employees. And then there's the whole Missouri and Kansas don't exactly love each other thing, so what do you think would happen if the state of Kansas imposed a requirement that all state employees had to live in Kansas? Like the state senator quoted in the article, I'm guessing it wouldn't take very long for Missouri to do the same. So, yeah, maybe we'd gain some new residents and the increased tax revenue they bring with them. But we'd lose some residents, too. And we'd make it a little harder to attract some new hires in the KC area.

On the whole, seems like a pretty bad idea that shouldn't be pursued.

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