Tagged: reform

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

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Louisiana Laps Arkansas, Passes School Voucher Plan

From The Friedman Foundation:

[Thursday, April 5], by a vote of 60-42, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved Gov. Jindal’s voucher expansion, which passed the Senate [April 4] 24-15.

“This is a momentous day for the families of Louisiana,” State Superintendent of Education John White said. “All students deserve a fair chance in life, and that begins with the opportunity to attend a high-quality school. These policy changes are aligned with that central belief, and Gov. Jindal and state lawmakers have demonstrated a clear commitment to prioritize the educational rights of Louisiana’s next generation above all else.”

The expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will allow low- and middle-income students in Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state accountability system to receive government-funded vouchers to attend private schools. Currently, that option is available only to children in New Orleans and students with special needs in eligible parishes.

Governor Bobby Jindal said he is “not declaring victory, mission accomplished” because “we’ve still got a lot of work in this session,” like a bill that grants rebates to individuals and corporations that contribute money for vouchers.

But there is no disputing this is a huge step forward for education in The Bayou State.

Arkansas legislators should now go sit in the corner & reflect on the fact that Louisiana is now ahead of us in education reform.

Louisiana Democrat Calls Supporters of School Choice Nazis

Governor Bobby Jindal & Republicans in Louisiana are pushing to expand school choices for families.  The state currently has a limited form of school choice, according to The Pelican Post:

The Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence Program currently serves 1,912 students. It offers vouchers which average $4,863 each to low-income pupils in New Orleans in grades K-6 only.  Jindal’s proposal would expand the program to the entire state and include students who attend schools graded C, D, or F among other criteria.

But of course the proposal is not going through without a fight & some good ole fashioned name-calling by state Democrats.  One Democrat, Rep. John Bel Edwards, has even gone so far as to call the governor & supporters of the reforms Nazis.

Predictable, sad and, regrettably, perhaps a preview of what’s to come as Arkansas preps for its own school choice battle next year.

You can hear the audio in this report:

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

My Thoughts on Tonight’s School Choice Event

I know many of you were breathlessly captivated by the 1,492th GOP primary debate tonight and weren’t able to make it to the school choice event in Searcy hosted by The Arkansas Reform Alliance (TARA).  But I did attend and I came away with three distinct impressions.

1. Most people–even the highly educated–lack basic understanding of school choice/voucher programs.  This is not a knock on anyone, it’s just an observation (that happens to be indisputable) based on the questions of the attendees tonight.  If anything, this is a very strong indication of the importance of these types of events and the educational work that TARA is doing.  Keep it up.

2. The organizers of the event could not have been more correct: the battle for education freedom will be won (or lost) through social media & citizen engagement.  Bumper stickers and yard signs are cool, but the days of winning campaigns with only those types of trinkets are over.  Campaigns happen online.  The sooner we get every homeschool soccer mom on Twitter, the faster we start to see real momentum towards reform.  Don’t think for a second that the teachers union & lobby won’t be using every social media avenue available to smear and destroy any school choice legislation.  When this war begins, we need to be ready.  We will win it or lose it with social media and citizen activism.

3. We have a state representative that is committed to fighting for this cause.  I mentioned in my post from earlier this week that Rep. Biviano would be speaking tonight, and he did not disappoint.  It was the first time I have really heard him stump and I must say, I was impressed.  He spoke without notes, just from the heart.  He even went so far as to say that he is perhaps more passionate about school choice and education reform than tax cuts or fighting Obamacare–“and that’s pretty passionate,” he added.  When we start to consider the pressures and the battle that will come with the teachers union (which will likely also include the NEA) as we work towards real reforms, there is no doubt we are going to need a fighter in Little Rock.  Perhaps someone who has stood up to the governor, the state insurance commission, the national Department of Health & Human Services, and the Obama administration to fight the implementation of Obamacare is not a bad choice.

A tweetcap of tonight’s forum from my Twitter, in reverse chronological order:

  • @MarkBiviano says #SchoolChoice isn’t a solution for everything, but it’s a great step in the right direction. #arleg #arpx #tcot
  • @markbiviano says we need competition to fix our schools. #arpx #arleg #tcot #teaparty #schoolchoiceweek
  • @LaurieLee0966 says the battle for #schoolchoice will be won on Twitter & Facebook. #fb #arpx #arleg
  • @MarkBiviano says the idea that #Arkansas is 5th in #education is misleading. #arpx #arleg #schoolchoiceweek #fb @TARA_AR
  • “Our educational problems are dragging this state down.” – @MarkBiviano #arpx #arleg #schoolchoiceweek
  • @MarkBiviano says we need some bold, radical reforms in #education. #arpx #arleg #tcot #schoolchoiceweek
  • @MarkBiviano: “I’m not proud of a 50% remediation rate.” #arpx #arleg #schoolchoiceweek #tcot
  • @MarkBiviano says he may be even more passionate about #SchoolChoice than tax cuts or fighting #Obamacare. #arpx #arleg #schoolchoiceweek
  • At the @TARA_AR event in #Searcy. @MarkBiviano opening. #arpx #arleg #schoolchoiceweek

Nic Horton