There was a great article in yesterday’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette about tomorrow’s tax vote in White County. The story was also run by The Republic & can be read here.
The article includes interviews from myself & White County judge Mike Lincoln. My comments are consistent with comments I have been making publicly here on this site & on radio for the past 7 weeks. Mr. Lincoln’s comments, however, stray significantly from the talking points we have been hearing for a while.
Let’s take them in order of how they appear in the article:
- In the opening statement, Lincoln says that the 1% tax hike “would speed up work on a highway bypass.” Whoa…wait a minute. I thought we weren’t getting the bypass unless we got the tax? This is a blip of honesty in an otherwise untruthful campaign that has been waged by the tax proponents. The truth is (as has been confirmed by various state officials): the south half of the bypass will be built regardless of whether or not the tax increase passes. The north half can still be built if the county and/or city decide they are willing to use the money they currently have to fund it. This is a matter of fact that I have been trying to hit home the last several weeks—perhaps I have finally convinced Mr. Lincoln.
- The first paragraph also reveals a small ounce of truth that has been largely ignored to this point: the money that is distributed to cities will be used to “recruit industry.” We have not heard a great deal of talk about this. Most public comments have led us to believe that the county’s liaison, Jim House, will be leading the charge for ‘economic development,’ funded by the county (well, at least that’s what his contract says), and the cities need this money for “infrastructure improvements” that are “desperately needed.” But it is true. The ordinance allocates 1/8 of the funds to ‘economic development.’ I cannot wait to see how the city of Letona spends their $7k in ‘economic development’ funds. Or how the city of Georgetown spends their $3,500. The Georgetown fish house does more for economic development than this tax ever will.
- In two places in the article, Lincoln says that $8 million of the tax revenue will be used to fund the bypass. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I thought the cost was $6 million? That’s what we have been told for about 3 months. I suppose that extra $2 million will have to come out of the cities’ portion of the revenue?
- Lincoln says, “We have a chance to have a three-phased project turn into one project if we can pass the tax.” This statement is patently false. State highway officials estimate that the first phase, the south half of the bypass, will not even begin for two years. That phase will take 3-4 years to complete. I am also told that construction on the second half, the north half, will not even begin until the first phase is completed. Make no mistake, these are all separate projects, none of which are completely dependent upon the passage of a new tax. A simple inquiry with the state highway department can confirm this.
- “I think this will entice people to come downtown,” Lincoln said. I am not sure if he is talking about the road or the tax, but neither is true. In fact, I have it on good report that Searcy’s “Main Street” committee that supports downtown businesses is opposing the tax because they realize it will divert traffic away from downtown.
- “We don’t want to end up like Conway,” said Lincoln. This is a hilariously ironic statement, considering the most vocal argument for any tax in White County in the last 3 years has been, “Look at Conway! We need to be just like Conway!”
- Lincoln says he thinks he needs 6,000 votes to get the tax passed. He also says he expects 10,000 votes to be cast. Well, a few things. First of all, if you need 6,000 votes for the tax, prepare to be disappointed. There weren’t even 10,000 votes cast in last year’s primary election (according to the Secretary of State). And there have only been around 1,200 early votes cast up to this point. 10,000 votes is just a silly prediction that is not based on reality. If they wanted that many votes, they should have put this issue on the general election ballot.
- Also, if there are 10,000 votes cast, he wouldn’t need 6,000 to pass it. He would only need 5,001. That’s government math for you. I guess that’s the same way they decided they needed $18,000,000 in new taxes to pay for a $6,000,000 project?
- “If the tax fails, I don’t have Plan B,” Lincoln said. Leadership 101: Always have a Plan B. If Mr. Lincoln’s only possible plan to build the bypass & provide for the county is an unnecessary tax hike, we have some serious problems ahead in White County.
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