Tagged: Government

Searcy A&P Tax Rejected Again, As Predicted

Many of you have written, inquiring about the results of the A&P tax in Searcy. In short, it was a rear-kicking:

FOR: 3,289

AGAINST: 4,312

That’s a margin of about 14% (I predicted a larger defeat than the last go around, which was 10%, and said the margin could be as much as 16-18 points).

(Sorry for being so slow to the party here — I was up until early Wednesday morning doing live election coverage for The Arkansas Project and have been quite busy since, prepping for the upcoming general assembly and traveling for work)

I’ll have more analysis of the tax election in the coming days, but let me just say here now, as I told the folks on Newstalk 99.1 FM on Tuesday night:

I hope the city gets the message. I hope they can finally realize that the people of Searcy do not want the A&P tax — not now, not ever.

I’ve been saying this for years — they have called me crazy, accused me of being “against the children,” blah blah blah. But guess what? I’m right. The people of Searcy have affirmed this once again. Unfortunately, as I predicted on the radio, the fight is probably not over. The hosts were shocked by this statement — “This is a settled issue,” the said. But, the very next morning, Alderman Don Raney apparently left the door open to another run at the tax in his post-election interview with the local paper.

I’m not trying to be a sore winner. For whatever reason, there is a fairly large faction in this city that now thinks that the city is now doomed and their children’s futures are doomed because higher taxes have not been forced upon the people of Searcy. Scarily, they seem to think my fiscal conservatism poses a greater threat to threat to their children’s’ future than Obama does. If you hold these viewpoints, please seek psychiatric help immediately.

But here’s the really scary part: A failed city council candidate with a WordPress account is now more in touch with the people of Searcy than the 8 city alderman, who voted for the tax, and the mayor. 

This is a problem that needs a solution. A serious disconnect exists between the people of Searcy and their “leaders.” It’s (past) time to start working to bridge this divide.

More analysis (and perhaps a few samples of recent hate mail) to come!

Nic Horton, Editor

Possible Searcy Parks Projects Released, No Pool Improvements Listed

If you’re thinking about voting for the latest Searcy tax proposal, you should know that you apparently won’t be voting for improvements to the city pool–which, in my estimation, is the impression that most Searcy voters are under (the last A&P tax was proposed to fund the previous mayor’s pet project, an aquatic center, and the most recent proposal was preceded by city officials bemoaning the need for pool improvements in the local paper).

The Parks & Rec committee has apparently released a list of projects they would like to pursue with the A&P money over the next five years.  Maybe I am missing something, but I do not see any pool improvements listed.  From the paper:

The tax is forecasted to bring in $971,392.68 in one year, based on five months of 2009 A&P revenues. The tax does not have a sunset.

For the first five years, the large projects are as follows:

Year one: Sports complex expansion with land acquisition and development.

Year two: Expansion and development of the bike trail

Year three: Riverside Park expansion

Year four: New park development

Year five: Soccer complex drainage.

Undoubtedly, someone will rebut my comments here by claiming this list is not extensive.  I’ll concede that point.  But don’t you think that, if the pool repairs were of highest priority, it would be listed?

This whole thing is one big mess.  The city passed this tax without listing any specific projects, but knowing full well that people would assume it was for pool improvements.  Now, this list comes forth, without any pool repairs listed?  It’s almost as if the city council had to pass the A&P ordinance before they could find out what it was going for (reminds me of another one of my favorite politicians).

Many of you may have been willing to pay for pool improvements, but are any of the things on this list so vital that you still support a cumulative 4% tax increase?

And take a look at Year Four:  a new park?  We can’t afford the parks we have, which is why we need this new tax, so if we get it, we are going to build MORE parks, which we also will not be able to afford!

They also expect us to believe that raising these sales taxes and spending all of this money on parks will magically attract businesses and new residents to Searcy.

More mismanagement by Searcy officials, facilitating more distrust in Searcy voters.

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.)

We Passed! Arkansas Gets D+ For Government Integrity

The headline speaks for itself and as one of Arkansas’ finest legislators, Rep. Andrea Lea, told KARN’s Donna Kelley:

“It’s not surprising.  Disappointing, but not surprising.”

There is a little hope that Arkansas’ score might see an increase in the future with the state’s online checkbook reportedly scheduled to launch in July.  But anytime New Jersey, Illinois, & Louisiana score ahead of your state on an ethics rating, you tend to worry.

Some of the factors in the score were “Public Access to Information” & “State Pension Fund Management.”  Arkansas received an ‘F’ in both categories.

Here’s a really neat-0 chart from State Integrity Investigation that shows how Arkansas was scored and why (click on the image to visit SII’s website & see how each score was determined):

 

Nic Horton

Arkansas Republican Policy Platform Starts to Take Shape

I popped into the White County Republican Women’s meeting on Tuesday evening to hear State Rep. Mark Biviano unveil part of the House Republicans’ platform for next year’s general assembly.  Biviano is serving as Policy Director for the House GOP caucus. (Minority Leader Bruce Westerman told me earlier this week that the full platform will be unveiled by the end of the month)

So, here’s a sneak peek at some of what we should see on the Republican platform in a few weeks:

1. Reigning in Government Spending.  Biviano said, “We can’t keep growing government and expect taxpayers to keep paying the bill.”  He added that a big part of reigning in spending is transparency: “The people deserve to know the good news & the bad news.”  That’s change I can believe in right there.

Biviano cited the shortfalls in the Forestry department, the unemployment overpayments, and the increased projected shortfalls in the state’s Medicaid program as prime examples of how a little transparency could go a long way:  “I learned about the increased projected shortfalls in Medicaid the same time y’all did, when I read the paper.”  This is a serious problem that is rampant throughout the state government:  shortfalls are being hidden for political purposes, and we, the taxpayers, are paying for it.  Literally.

Biviano said reigning in government spending also includes implementing performance-based budgeting for state agencies.  This system would give departments increases (or decreases) based on their performances, rather than across the board increases because ‘the governor said so.’

2. Tax Reform.  Biviano said tax reform in Arkansas starts with eliminating the capital gains tax to encourage growth in the state. (click here to read a recent report from Goldwater Institute about the positive effects of such a repeal)

3. Fixing Medicaid.  Biviano said Republicans wanted to use the state’s surplus from this year to cover the shortfalls in the program, but the governor did not want to listen.  I would expect, and hope, that Republican solutions to the crisis will look something like this.

4. Protecting Arkansas’ Future.  This part of the platform includes more pro-life legislation, which may include (if I understood correctly) a fetal pain bill.

Protecting the future also means reforming unemployment benefits & instituting voter ID requirements in the state, said Biviano.  Biviano said we need drug testing before Arkansans can receive unemployment benefits, as well as some non-prohibitive voter ID requirement to prevent voter fraud in our state.

5. Educational Excellence.  Biviano started by setting the record straight on Arkansas’ standing in education:

Despite what you may read in the papers, we rank 45th in the ability to achieve.  50% of Arkansas high school graduates have to take additional coursework before college.

I am a believer in school choice.  It’s in our best interest as a state to put our students where they can succeed.

Biviano also added that we spend more than $11,000 per student in Arkansas which is more than enough to cover the cost of private education. (I believe when I was in private high school the tuition was right around $5,000 per year, or less than half what the taxpayers are currently paying–and I believe I got a better return on my investment)

And this is just the preview!  This is very exciting for idea-oriented conservatives across the state.  And even aside from the content, which is excellent, it’s just a great idea for the caucus to present a detailed, no-nonsense plan like this to the voters.  It’s a ‘contract with America’ approach that is bold, clear, and principled.

If they stick to it, it’s a winner for Republicans and a winner for Arkansas.   It will resonate with voters.  It already is.

Nic Horton

New AR House GOP Leader Says Policy Platform to be Unveiled This Month

A former Razorback & Yale graduate is now the highest ranking Republican in the Arkansas House.  Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) was elected as the new minority leader on Friday.  Should Republicans take the House in November, Westerman would presumably become the first GOP majority leader since Reconstruction.

Upon hearing the news on Friday, I reached out to Rep. Westerman for comment on his election & also his plans as minority leader (and potentially as majority leader).

Westerman told me:

I’m honored that my colleagues have entrusted me to be their leader. I accept it as a challenge to do a job worthy of their support and respect.

My first objective is to support our members and candidates so that we can enter the 89th General Assembly with a majority, which will help with the remaining objectives of implementing sound conservative policy that will make state government more efficient and effective for hardworking Arkansas taxpayers.

Westerman also added:

Our caucus policy committee has been working very diligently to develop a plan that promotes our goals and objectives as we prepare to govern. We have kept our Republican Senators involved in our plans, and we believe we have a policy platform that will strike a chord with conservatives across the state. We plan to unveil the plan by the end of the month.

We’ll have more details about the House caucus’ policy plans as they become available.

Nic Horton

White Co. Elections Division to Remain Under Authority of County Clerk

Need to update a story from yesterday: the White County Personnel & Public Safety committee voted unanimously to leave the county elections division under the county clerk’s supervision, rather than consolidating the division under the county judge’s office.

JP Cameron Cooper tells the group “Citizens for Responsible Government in White County,”

The committee voted unanimously that the Election Coordinator should be under the County Clerk’s supervision. For the record, the County Judge did specifically state that he had no interest in supervising the Election Coordinator or having anything to do with that position.

This all started when the County Clerk had suggested (to the Budget Committee) a raise for the Election Coordinator to bring her pay up to be more in line with what Chief Deputies make. The Budget Committee raised the question of which elected official the Coordinator worked for as reportedly there had been some confusion on the issue, and they referred the question to the Personnel Committee for clarification.

Meeting turned out well and the Coordinator absolutely works under the supervision of the County Clerk.

Nic Horton