Bait & Switch: Will the Bypass Tax be Permanent?

Top 10 Ways the Searcy Bypass Proposal is Bypassing Logic

This past Wednesday morning, “Economic Development Liaison” for White County, Jim House, was on local radio touting the benefits of the proposed Searcy Bypass Tax hike.

Mr. House made several startling revelations about the project & the county’s/cities’ intentions regarding the project.   Here is a sampling:

  • “Searcy needs to own more property if we want more small businesses.”
  • “Searcy needs an industrial park.”
  • “If you want to grow, sometimes that means supporting a tax that you don’t like.  It sends an image of what you’re willing to do.”
  • “Searcy is a great place to see and walk around. We have a beautiful courthouse.”
  • “I’ve read several studies about bypasses. From what I’ve read, people’s perceptions of what they’re going to get is overstated.”
  • “It will take at least 10 years before people think this was a good thing.”
  • “We cannot guarantee that someone is not going to lose customers.”
  • “I didn’t think I supported the lottery, but we are spending $1.3 million on it in this county a month.  I never would’ve thought that was possible and we are getting all of these scholarships.  And this [bypass tax] is much less than that.”
  • “White County has never had a tax for economic development.  Most progressive cities have had one that goes fully to economic development.”
  • “If we can spend a smaller amount on economic development and have success, it’s a smaller investment and it would be well served if we have it on a permanent basis.”

Also, when asked how people could learn more about the tax proposal, Mr. House said, “They can call the county judge’s office & eventually he will get back to them.  I am too busy to take a lot of calls right now.”

There are several issues of concern here, not the least of which is the fact that White County taxpayers are actually paying this man to promote the county.

1.  The cat is out of the bag: the county will come back & try to make this tax permanent.  Mr. House showed his cards with his comments about a permanent tax.  The county judge & Searcy mayor have been selling this tax based on its relatively short lifespan—and that was the tax’s redeeming factor.  Oops.

2.  Mr. House seems to think this tax proposal is closely related to the lottery.  Given the county’s poor management of their surpluses & the city of Searcy’s reckless spending habits, I think he may be on to something.  Although something that he failed to mention: the lottery is completely voluntary, the tax is not.

3.  House seems to believe that we are due for 10 years of misery if this tax is passed.   I do not know how else to interpret his comment that it will “be 10 years before people think this was a good thing.”  Where can I sign up?

4.  What is he going to do to promote economic growth for Bald Knob, Beebe, Judsonia and our other communities? Mr. House seems to have a great concern for the city of Searcy, but he is being paid by the entire county.

5.  Searcy already has an industrial park…and it is empty.  Koehler, Amana & Whirlpool are just a few examples of businesses that have closed in the industrial park in the last several years.  Why should we think that building more buildings & purchasing more land will automatically equal jobs?

6.  Mr. House seems to think that sending a message to businesses & other communities that we are willing to raise taxes in a severe economic recession will entice them into our county.  Do businesses love taxes now?  Did I miss something?

7.  House’s understanding of economic development seems to be limited to what he’s read on the Internet.  And you probably shouldn’t have high expectations for this project because your perceptions are “overstated” (his words, not mine).  Does he have any experience dealing with site consultants or recruiting businesses?

8.  Apparently the nicest thing about Searcy is our courthouse—and this Searcy-centered thinking is exactly why people out in the county are skeptical about this proposal.

9.  The bypass will, in fact, bypass downtown Searcy.  Make no mistake: this will hurt businesses. 

10. If the bypass is supposed to be so good for business why would anyone lose customers?   They will unless they relocate to the bypass.

The proponents of this tax seem to lack a basic understanding of how jobs are actually created.  Furthermore, they are spreading misinformation & half-truths about the proposal and their ultimate intentions.  It is time for honesty in public discourse.

Nicholas Horton, Chairman, Citizens for Responsible Taxation



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