Category: Searcy

The Paper Turns

A&P tax protestors from 2010, using muddy signs that were stolen and discovered on city property

There will be a story in Wednesday’s edition of the Searcy paper about the pro-A&P tax group putting their fliers in mailboxes without stamps — a violation of federal law. But that’s not the real story. The real story here is that the paper is reporting the incident.

This is a paper that, like many across the country, bends to the left. (If you need any evidence of this, see this hit piece they ran on little ole insignificant me. They even had a piece yesterday outlining how much better the current proposal is than the 2009 proposal.) They also turned a blind eye to the ethics violations of our sitting county judge and endorsed the bypass tax, if I remember correctly. So it is certainly news that they are now turning against the pro-tax crowd. Quite frankly, it’s a great indication that the tax is doomed — a claim support by the paper’s own empirical evidence.

Using their own creative scientific method of hiring college students to conduct research, the paper conducted a poll showing the A&P tax failing by 12-points. They also recently conducted a poll that showed state Rep. Mark Biviano leading his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne (who, incidentally, supports the A&P tax) by 16 points while just days before, Biviano released an internal poll from a well-respected polling firm showing a 26-point lead. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that the tax poll may be off by several points as well, although I can’t say I am completely surprised– they have a history of screwing these things up.

As I have been telling folks for a while, before any polls were conducted, you should not be surprised if the tax is defeated handily and by a larger margin than last time — perhaps by as much as 16-18 points.

The activists on the ground (as opposed to the ones at the paper) know they’re in trouble as well: last week, Alderman Don Raney told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that Searcy needs the tax to help “disabled children” and the elderly. Besides being disgusting, these tactics are clear signs of desperation.

Don’t be surprised if you see the paper run a few more favorable A&P tax pieces between now and the election — they’ll come under a wave of pressure from the city political establishment after tomorrow’s bombshell hits. But even they know the gig is up.

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What Did We Learn in the District 46 Debate?

Last night, I witnessed the Searcy debate between incumbent Rep. Mark Biviano and his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne. If the voters make a choice based on the candidates’ performances, Osborne is in serious trouble.

In his opening statement, Osborne began by saying he’s running for state representative because he has 30 years of law enforcement experience and “we need a little law enforcement in Little Rock.” He continued by saying he wants to go to the legislature to “serve alongside our hometown boy Mike Beebe.” You know, the Governor Beebe that’s running around the state calling for “civility” while telling Republicans to “shut their mouths” and accusing AFP of “trashing Arkansas.”

He also repeated the tired talking point that “Arkansas is 5th in education” (again, this claim has been fully debunked here at The Arkansas Project). Osborne also said he wanted to help Beebe finish eliminating the grocery tax and that, as police chief, “I’ve done everything I could to double the training budget for the city police.”

Biviano began by asking the moderator if the altitude had been properly adjusted in the room before the debate: “You’ve gotta love Al Gore,” he quipped. He then began the substantive portion of his remarks by saying he was running for reelection to give his children better opportunities. He said that,

“To be an effective legislator, you have to want to serve. We have too many rubber stamp legislators.”

As for his platform, Biviano espoused his belief in lower taxes, education reform, and a business-friendly regulatory climate. Citing the statistic that Arkansas has lost 30,000 private sector jobs in the last 5 years, he ended his remarks by saying, “It’s time for Arkansas to do better.”

Read the full story from The Arkansas Project.

Searcy City Council to Introduce A&P Tax 2.0

Remember that pesky A&P tax that the people of Searcy forcefully rejected in 2010? It’s back, albeit in a slightly different form.

While there have been some private rumblings for some time, Alderman Don Raney has now made it publicly known that he intends to propose yet another tax increase to the Searcy city council at the August meeting.

You can read the ordinance as well as a letter from Aldmeran Raney here.

In Raney’s letter, he identifies two concerns that were raised about the last A&P proposal: 1. The issue was not placed at a general election & 2. The funds were to be overseen by an unelected commission rather than elected public officials.

(Mr. Raney is partially correct. There were objections raised about the tax being placed at a special election, but I never heard anyone demand it be placed at the general election, but simply at a regular election–primary or general election. But I digress.)

I fear that Mr. Raney thinks these two compromises on the part of the city will ease the concerns of everyone who opposed the A&P tax the first time–and for some former opponents, that may be true. But the problems with an A&P tax are fundamental.

For instance, is it ethical for our city to slap tourists with an extra 3% when they come to our city? Should they bear the cost for our amenities? And is this sound tax policy? (by the way, that 3% would also apply to groups that rent rooms for meetings in town, perhaps including Kiwanis, Lions, church groups, etc.)

Shouldn’t an “A&P tax” go towards “advertising and promotion?”

Should we be raising taxes on food?

Doesn’t this tax disproportionality effect the poor?

Do parks improvements really take precedence over infrastructure and public safety?

What level of taxation can our city sustain? Can we really keep raising taxes every time someone wants a new project and expect real growth?

Our economy is still floundering–what impact would this tax have on consumers who are tightening their belts even more?

I think these are questions that deserve answers. I’m looking forward to having a conversation with you–Searcy voters, people of White County, and activists from around the state that have seen the disastrous effects of A&P taxes and big government in your cities.

I have little doubt the A&P proposal will have any difficulty making it through the city council, so the debate is imminent.

(To our dear Searcy leaders: Sorry, I know you thought this blog was defunct. And while it is true that I have been, and will continue to be, primarily occupied with my work at The Arkansas Project, I will be taking time to weigh in on this tax debate as much as possible. I may not be leading the charge this time, but I will make my voice heard and the people will be given the facts about this proposal.)

Searcy Mayor, White County Judge Support Highway* Tax Hike – Update

Searcy Mayor David Morris & White County Judge Mike Lincoln apparently both stated in the local paper a few months ago that they support Issue 1 or the ‘Highway Tax’* that will be on the ballot in November.  The half cent tax* increase was referred to voters by the state legislature during last year’s regular session.  A tax on fuel…what a great idea!  A tax hike on everything?  What a great idea!*

Morris reportedly said that street improvements are his ‘biggest concern’ and said the additional revenue that the city would receive as turnback would be ‘welcomed.’

I find this particularly interesting, given that Searcy voters approved a 1% tax increase in December 2011, specifically for road improvements, and the mayor did publicly & privately promise not to call for any further tax increases until this new tax expires.  The tax went into effect on April 1 of this year.

Then we have Mike “Never-met-a-tax-I-didn’t-like” Lincoln who told the paper that we “desperately needs additional funds for highways.”  Lincoln also said, “if we want improvements, we are going to have to pay for them.”

This is a line he used repeatedly during his campaign to raise taxes on White County taxpayers by 1% last September.  The implication behind this comment is sincerely insulting to the people of White County.  Of course, if we want to improve our infrastructure, we will have to pay for it.  But ‘paying for it’ and raising taxes to pay for it are two entirely different things, Judge Lincoln.

Voters should also remember that the judge cut $1.5 million from this year’s county road budget, while the county sits on millions of dollars in CDs and other accounts.  He uses many straw-man arguments like, “Well, we don’t have enough money in the road fund,” leading voters to believe that only money in the road fund can be used for infrastructure improvements, but this is simply not true.

The fact is:  White County government, during Judge Lincoln’s time in office, has enjoyed its highest revenues in history.  Our problems in White County do not originate from a lack of revenue.  They stem from a lack of leadership.

UPDATE: A delightful Lincoln supporter & serial commenter on this blog has said that the diesel tax will no longer be on the Arkansas ballot in 2012.  I have read some discussion in the news about this, but I have not seen anything definitive.  Many sites are still reporting that the issue will be on the ballot, including Ballotpedia (whom I cited earlier in this post).  They have the ballot question’s status listed as “on the ballot.”  TaxRates.com reported on the vote just over a week ago, citing a poll that was conducted on the issue in late March of this year.

I am looking into this and will keep you posted.  Whether or not the issue will be on the ballot this year is immaterial to my point in this article.  Judge Lincoln wants higher taxes, despite county revenues being higher than ever.  And this point is not dependent upon this particular tax issue.  He has supported multiple other taxes during his time in office, and I will be outlining those as well.

*This part of the story was edited for clarification.

Governor Beebe Should Take His Own Advice

I contacted State Senator Jonathan Dismang yesterday evening after learning of Governor Beebe’s unhinged comments about the Searcy bypass project.

The senator tells me he is confident that the trucker tax exemption will not effect the project:

I have talked to 3 commissioners and the director who have all repeatedly indicated that our project will not be impacted by the funding shortage created by the trucker tax exemption.

The director he’s referring to is the director of the Arkansas Highway Department, if I understood correctly.  We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

In my estimation, this is further evidence that Governor Beebe is simply playing a sick political game & using a sensitive issue in his hometown to take cheap shots at Dismang.  Truly ironic comments from a governor who has repeatedly spoken out against “DC politics,” and said this last fall:

“You elect people to work together to solve the problem.  And you may not agree on every issue and you may not get your way on every issue. And while I’m not suggesting that you prostitute your principles, I am suggesting that you act like adults and that you try to resolve our nation’s problems…

“If the people in Washington, D.C., would take a lesson from the people in Arkansas, we could solve a lot of these problems a lot earlier.”

Seems to me that the people in DC are acting like the folks in Arkansas and that is the problem.  Perhaps the governor should take his own advice and start acting like an adult.

The Circle Won’t Be Broken: Beebe Sings Bass, Searcy Paper Sings Tenor

Well, a story in today’s Searcy paper is raising some eyebrows:  Governor Beebe now says he “won’t push” for the Searcy bypass project.

This comes after Judge Lincoln told voters last week that Beebe played a role in crafting his failed tax plan to fund White County’s portion of the project.  According to Lincoln, “Governor Beebe wanted us to form a strategic plan, and the tax/bypass was part of our strategic plan.”

So what gives?

From the story:

“I’m obviously for the Searcy bypass project, but I’m not going to ask the highway department to spend money they don’t have.  If they don’t have the money, they’ll have to make adjustments.”

He went on to say, he really should stay out of it because it’s not really any of his business, but he’s involving himself anyway:

“I’m not in any position to rank all the highways in the state of Arkansas.  That’s what the highway commission is for. Obviously, I have a little prejudice in favor of Searcy because that’s where I’m from, but I still have to govern the whole state.”

And while staying out of it, Governor Beebe added:

“It’s really sad. It’s sad for Searcy. It’s sad for any projects around the state.”

So, to summarize:  He’s going to stay out of it because he’s not really in any position to rank the projects, but he fully supports the project, but he’s not going to add any pressure to the commission to do the project, but he does have prejudice in favor of Searcy, and he’s going to stay out of it, but it’s really sad for Searcy.

And believe it or not, this is all those evil Republicans’ fault because they blocked the trucker tax exemption repeal!  Specifically, the governor says it was Searcy’s Senator Jonathan Dismang’s fault.  How convenient, seeing as how one of Beebe’s friends is running against Dismang this year.

Two entities deserve to be scolded for this joke of a political move.  First of all, the governor.  What the heck, dude?  Jerking your hometown around like this?  You’re using a local hot potato issue and holding it over the heads of Searcy citizens to bully votes out of Senator Dismang and/or to punish him.  Of course this is nothing new–politicians have playing these games for years.  But this is a reach, even for you and besides, I thought you were against DC politics?

Governor Beebe admits himself he has no control over this issue, and he should probably stay out of it, so he should do it.  All indications from the state–except from the governor himself, of course–are that the project will go forward.  He is beating a dead horse, and a controversial one at that.  This is politics at its worst.

Secondly, shame on our beloved Searcy paper.  They continue to sing right along with the Democrats’ narrative.  They are accepting Governor Beebe’s premise that the project remains in peril because of conservative efforts to stabilize the state budget and framing these issues in such a manner that reflect poorly on Senator Dismang.  They want to continue the work that they started against me and other local conservatives last fall:  “Evil, heartless conservatives are the ones who are holding this bypass project back.  Conservatives are the ones holding back ‘progress.'”

What the paper is doing is shameless.  They’re giving Governor Beebe a pass on provably false statements so they can continue to advance the narrative that conservatism hurts progress.

If I had made the same types of false statements that the governor made, I would be ridiculed and mocked, disparaged as a ‘local conspiracy theorist.’  But the paper doesn’t question the governor because his comments advance their agenda of silencing conservative voices & distorting the truth.

I’m not sure who is singing the lead, but there’s no disputing that the paper and Governor Beebe are singing the same song.

I have contacted Senator Dismang for comment, as well as Searcy city officials.  We’ll keep you posted.

Democrat Candidate for AR House Kyle Osborne Says He is “Not For” Obamacare…Kind Of

I attended the health care forum in Searcy last night.  It was a discussion between incumbent state rep. Mark Biviano & his challenger, Kyle Osborne, who currently serves as Searcy police chief.

Here’s what I learned:

1.  Kyle Osborne is opposed to Obamacare…kind of.  His direct quote:

“I’m not for Obamacare…but we have to do something to fix health care.”

Throughout the rest of the debate, he continued to say we should do something, but it should not be until the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare’s constitutionality, and he failed to specify what ideas he has to fix the problems. In fact, he offered this gem later in the discussion:

“As a Democrat, I do not have all of the ideas.”

That is a direct quote.  He also said ‘we shouldn’t have the White House telling us how to do it.’

Later on, Osborne said he was ‘opposed to the way Obamacare is now,’ but added ‘it’s not a bad idea.’

When asked what parts of Obamacare should be preserved, Osborne cited the preexisting conditions & provisions that allow adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

Osborne stopped just short of saying he thinks the law is unconstitutional, but did say he thinks it will be ruled that way by the Supreme Court.

Where does Osborne stand on Obamacare, you ask?  I have no idea.  But I cannot wait to hear what Osborne’s golf buddy, Governor Beebe, has to say about these developments.

2.  Rep. Biviano opposes Obamacare fully, says it is unconstitutional, and should be scrapped.

As for pre-existing conditions provisions, Biviano said this policy is already adding to the cost of premiums for consumers.

When asked what effect Obamacare will have on the state, Biviano cited Arkansas’ doctor shortage and predicted that Obamacare would add 400,000 patients to the Medcaid rolls, a program that is already on life support.  He also predicted health care rationing in the state if the program is fully implemented here.

(Osborne said we should wait and see how the Supreme Court rules before he answers this question)

When asked for alternative solutions to Obamacare, Biviano said he has traveled the world working in the health care industry and the only real solutions he has seen have been private and market-driven.

Biviano also said that 80% of employers may opt-out of health care plans for their employees if Obamacare remains intact.

3.  Osborne thinks services may have to be cut to save Medicaid.

“No one wants to say that services will be cut, but that’s an option that’s on the table.”

(Direct quote, can be read here.)  He concluded his recommendations on saving Medicaid with,

“I don’t know that there’s really an answer right now.”

4.  Biviano says we can avoid cutting services/raising taxes if we deal with shortfalls Medicaid now.

Biviano reiterated that Republicans tried to apply this year’s surplus to fill the void in Medicaid, but the Governor blocked the effort.

Here are some of the other questions that were asked & the candidates’ responses:

Q:  If you are elected and Obamacare is struck down, how will you work to fix health care in Arkansas?

Biviano:  “I will continue to work to block the implementation of exchanges in our state.  Did you know you cannot buy health insurance from another state?  You should be able to buy health plans online.”

Osborne:  “If elected, I will meet with anyone who has ideas.  As a Democrat, I do not have all the ideas.”

Q:  Do you think we should crack down harder on Medicaid fraud?

Osborne:  “We have to stop fraud, and to do that we’re going to have to hire a lot more prosecutors & judges.”

Biviano:  “Before we can hire more prosecutors & judges, we have to identify the problem.  I was proud to help craft the Westerman plan to rein in fraud.”

Q:  Has Obama’s accommodation on mandated birth control coverage solved the problem?

Biviano:  “No, this is about freedom. We shouldn’t be mandating this.”

Osborne: “No, it hasn’t fixed the problem.”

 

Q:  Should we have federal or state health care exchanges? 

Biviano:  “The Democrats want to make a distinction between state & federal exchanges but you cannot do it.  The federal government will have its hands all in it.  We cannot afford a state exchange under federal guidelines.”

Osborne:  “I was under the impression that we had the opportunity to opt-out of some federal guidelines.”

Q:  Some say Obamacare is a symbol of the end of limited government.  Do you think government has gotten too big?

Osborne: “Obamacare, that’s an example of how they’ve gotten too big.  But I can’t answer the rest of that question until the Supreme Court rules.”

Q:  Is  Obamacare going to make it more difficult for insurance companies to provide coverage?

Biviano: “Yes, they’re going to pass their additional costs on to consumers.”

Osborne:  “I was an insurance agent 35 years ago.”

Q:  The independent advisory board morally appropriate?

Biviano:  “No, it goes against the democratic principles that this country was founded on.”

Osborne: “We are treading new ground with Obamacare. No one knows what to expect.” (he then asked if the board is at the federal or state level)

From my perspective, the contrast was pretty clear between the two candidates.  Despite the fact that Mr. Osborne agreed with Mr. Biviano on almost every point, Biviano’s knowledge of the health care industry and health care policy was clearly evident, while frankly Osborne just rambled through most of the discussion.  By my count, he did not offer a single policy recommendation, substantive or otherwise.

Now, remind me:  which party is the one that wants to cut services?  Which party is it that doesn’t have solutions, but just talking points, just wanting to throw ‘granny off a cliff?’  It’s not the Republican party, and that was fully evident last night.

For more info from the event, you can read my tweets or follow the hashtag #AR46HC.

Nic Horton