By Nicholas Horton
In the last issue of The Bison, Harding University’s student publication, Mr. Marty Spears stated his support for the proposed A&P tax. I support Mr. Spears’ right to take a stance on this issue. Thanks to the hard work of so many over the past year, through a petition process and a legal battle against a City Council and Mayor who did not want the citizens to have a say on this issue, every citizen of Searcy will have the opportunity to make their voices heard on April 13th and let the city government know what The People think about raising taxes in this economy. The problem I have with Mr. Spears’ article is that several of his claims about the A&P Tax are simply false. I would like to present readers with the facts.
The first false claim was that the A&P Tax revenue will be spent “for the designated uses.” The problem with this statement is that the city of Searcy chose to not designate the funds at all. Instead of earmarking the funds for a particular purpose (parks, advertising, etc.) as they were urged to do by several concerned citizens, the city designed the ordinance as a slush fund. The money is not designated to any particular purpose. Rather it is under the sole control and subject to the discretion of the unelected, bureaucratic, Washington-style A&P Commission. Mr. Spears does not know how the money will be spent; the mayor does not know how the money will be spent; the city council does not know how the money will be spent. The money will be under complete control of the A&P Commission. It is nothing but a slush fund for the city. Or, given the overwhelming support of the local Sonic restaurants for the tax, a “cherry-slush fund,” if you will.
This leads me to my next criticism/correction. Mr. Spears stated in his article that these commissions “have worked well across the state.” I will give Mr. Spears the benefit of the doubt here and assume he has not researched this issue and is not being intentionally deceptive. With that said, this claim is perhaps the most ludicrous of all. In Little Rock, business-owning members of the A&P Commission have given themselves no-bid contracts. In Fort Smith & Hot Springs, the Commissions spend 50-70% of their revenues on their own personal staffs. In Forrest City, the A&P Commission spent $30,000 suing the city it was supposed to promote because the city tried to amend the A&P ordinance! These are only a few examples of how A&P Commissions have gone awry. Scores of them exist and I encourage every voter to do some online research about these runaway commissions. They are not as harmless as they seem.
“You already pay this tax.” This is an argument that the pro-taxers have used for over a year now. Somehow the idea that I “already pay this tax” when I go out to eat in Little Rock is supposed to make me more comfortable with the idea of paying this tax every time I go out to eat. I do not understand this logic and I think it is disingenuous.
“People who do not stay in hotels and do not eat out will not pay any A&P Tax.” Perhaps Mr. Spears genuinely believes this, but he is vastly mistaken. This is not just a tax on restaurants. This is not just a tax on hotels. If a civic group rents a room for a meeting, it is taxed. If a family rents a room for a birthday party, it is taxed. If you buy a yogurt parfait in the student center, it is taxed. If you buy coffee, it is taxed. If you buy popcorn or a drink at a movie, it is taxed. If you buy concession items at a ballgame, it is taxed. Taxed, taxed, taxed and taxed again.
The article also neglects to mention that, should the A&P Tax pass a vote of the people, the city council will have the authority to raise the tax rate on food and beverages from 1% to as much as 3% without the consent of the voters.
So, do the people of Seary want higher taxes?
Do the people of Searcy want an unelected Commission, with a history of corruption and wasteful spending, to have control over close to $1,000,000 per year of their money?
Do the people of Searcy trust the proponents of this tax, who tried to ram it through without the consent of the people, to make good appointments to the commission?
Do the people of Searcy trust these people, who are spreading misinformation about the tax and the Commission, to fulfill their promises regarding the allocation of the funds?
I do not.
Please vote against the A&P Tax on April 13th at the Carmichael Community Center.
The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly. The editor can be reached at email@example.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.