Kansas legislation could bring incentive for relocation to rural counties

written by Ryan McCarthy is a University of Kansas senior
TOPEKA — A bill was presented in the House on Wednesday that would provide incentives to out-of-state residents to relocate to southeastern Kansas communities. Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, brought House Bill 2417 to the House floor for debate, saying, “The program helps attract fine investment businesses and job growth in rural areas of the state.” Legislators from Labette, Montgomery and Cherokee counties talked about the Rural Opportunity Zones program last week in the Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee. The program would provide tax exemptions for five years and $15,000 student loan repayment to out-of-state residents who move to those Kansas counties. The rural opportunity bill would also provide a much-needed population boost. Gov. Sam Brownback established the Rural Opportunity Zones program in 2011 for counties that lost 10 percent population during the previous decade. This bill would be an addition to the program. The initial program included 40 counties in the states, but it jumped to 50 after the legislature saw the program possibilities. Last year, the program expanded to 23 more counties including Jackson and Wabaunsee counties. Rep. Don Schroeder, R-Hesston, a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, brought up his support for the bill and it’s amendments. Schroeder and other lawmakers talked about the problem of people working in Kansas but living in Oklahoma. Schroder wanted to see if these people can stay and be tax-paying citizens of Kansas. “All of these counties that border the Oklahoma line sometimes struggle to get workers,” Schroeder said. “Let’s see if we can do something to attract people to live and work in this state.” Rep. Jim Kelly, R-Independence, who lives in Montgomery County on the Oklahoma border, has seen the impact in his community. “Montgomery County has 12.5 percent of its workforce that travels in to work,” Kelly said. “ $41 million a year is going out of state with wages earned in Kansas jobs in air craft and equipment manufacturing.” Kelly also said the Kansas Department of Commerce supported the idea of Kansas workers living in Kansas rather than Oklahoma or Missouri. Final action for this bill would be coming up later in the week.

Ryan McCarthy is a University of Kansas senior from Lenexa majoring in journalism. -


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