Gov. Sam Brownback found no reason for alarm Friday after an Overland Park business executive asserted state health care and tax policies prompted a decision to move the company’s corporate office to Missouri.
Jeff Blackwood, CEO of Pathfinder Health Innovations, said the software firm’s office would be relocated across the state line to Kansas City, Mo. The firm’s two dozen employees offer management services to care providers for people with disabilities.
“I can’t, in good conscience, continue to give our tax money to a government that actively works against the needs of its citizens,” he said in a goodbye blog post.
“A state that is systematically targeting the citizens in most need, denying them critical care and reducing their cost of life as if they’re simply a tax burden that should be ignored.”
He said the business had outgrown its Kansas location, and Missouri tax incentives were offered to lure the operation away, but a central motivation was to move away from Kansas and the “hyper-conservative” second-term governor who “heralded a new age of far right-wing ideology.”
Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor was proud of 17,000 new businesses created last year in Kansas.
“While we are not familiar with that particular company’s situation, we do know that Governor Brownback’s tax policy has attracted a record-setting number of new businesses for five consecutive years,” she said.
Rep. Melissa Rooker, a moderate Republican from Fairway in Johnson County, said movement of companies across the Missouri-Kansas line was routine.
“People are hopping back and forth in the metro area. That’s an everyday occurrence,” Rooker said.
Blackwood’s blog post was critical of a 2012 state tax reform bill signed by Brownback that eliminated state income tax on owners of at least 330,000 businesses in Kansas. The legislation also reduced individual income tax rates. Subsequent budget problems led directly to raises in the statewide sales tax and indirectly to higher property taxes.
“He shifted taxes to create a heavier burden on property and sales taxes, which typically represent a larger burden on lower income brackets,” Blackwood said.
On this point, House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, could agree with the departing businessman.
“You need a fair and equitable tax pan,” Burroughs said.
In addition, Blackwood objected to the Brownback administration’s maneuvering to eliminate the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The KBA was established to invest tax dollars in bioscience companies in Kansas. The administration is in the process of selling off KBA assets in anticipation of $25 million that could be applied to the state’s budget deficit.
Blackwood found fault with Brownback’s decisions to deny appropriate funding to people with disabilities, privatize the Medicaid program in Kansas, neglect state mental hospitals, undercut public schools and suspend payments to the state’s pension system.
“In the end,” he said, “I believe the goals of the Brownback administration are going exactly to plan — starve the state of resources to the point where it just makes sense to turn over critical government functions to for-profit entities.”