Tagged: Spending

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.)

Week In Review: Patriot Honored, Vetting The Judge, & Governor Beebe’s Dirge

Here’s a look at our top stories from this week:

  • We’re going to vet the judge.  You really will not want to miss this series of forthcoming articles about the White County Judge’s governing record.
  • Governor Beebe controls the Searcy media?  They’re singing a lovely harmony to his political dirge in Friday’s paper, generating a story that the bypass project may not be completed and of course, if it doesn’t, it’s all Senator Dismang’s fault.

Listen to Your Radios Today

I will be appearing as a distinguished guest on The Paul Harrell Program today at 5 p.m. to discuss our work here at The Patriot, and Arkansas politics, including all of the tomfoolery that goes with it.

You can tune in live at AnswerTo.Us or listen on 1230 AM in northeast Arkansas.

(apparently Paul is as ‘sufficiently patriotic’ as we are and chose a great URL for his show’s website as well!)

If you can’t listen live, I believe we’ll be able to share some in-studio video after the program.

Hope you’ll tune in.

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

Debt Relief Amendment Pulled, Moved to Interim Study

I have so much to cover, including some local stuff, but so little time.  However, I want to start by taking just a minute to weigh on some developments that happened in Little Rock yesterday.

In case you haven’t heard, Senator Jason Rapert announced yesterday that he planned to pull SJR 1 or the National Debt Relief Amendment.

Rapert’s campaign tells me that all of the Republicans on the State Agencies Committee were in support of the bill, but they could not get any Democrats to break ranks with their party and move the bill to the floor.  There remained one legislative option to advance the bill–forcing a floor vote–but the campaign says the senator has ‘too much respect for the institution’ to enact such a tactic, one that has been compared to the U.S. Senate’s ‘nuclear option.’

In a statement, Rapert said:

Despite a bipartisan group of 47 members supporting SJR 1 in the General Assembly, and growing national support to address the out of control federal debt, we could not overcome the partisan divide of the Senate State Agencies Committee with only a few days left in the fiscal session.  SJR 1 has achieved a positive result in that more people are focused on the issue of the national debt, how the debt affects hardworking Arkansas taxpayers, and the constitutional options granted to states by our Founding Fathers.

While NDRA has passed two states, been introduced in Congress, and would have passed the Arkansas Senate had it been brought to the floor, I respect the institution of the Senate and will let this bill run its course through regular order instead of putting the chamber through the painful process of a floor vote to extract it forcibly from committee when we have much bigger issues like the $400 million Medicaid shortfall facing our state.

This is yet another example of the Democrats’ unwillingness to compromise or even consider out-of-the-box solutions to problems we face in the state.  This is also a real loss for the taxpayers:  this was our best chance to reign in federal spending.

Despite the misinformation/fear-mongering campaign that was waged by Paulbots & Secure Arkansas, SJR 1 called for an amendment convention, not a ‘constitutional convention’ as they were inaccurately saying.  As Advance Arkansas Institute and others stated, this would not have been a ‘free for all’ assault on the U.S. Constitution.  It would have been a meeting for a specific purpose, limited in scope, and anything that came out of the convention would have had to go before the states for ratification, just like any constitutional amendment.

I’m not sure what these groups accomplished by siding with Democrats in a misinformation campaign against one of Arkansas’s most conservative legislators and a downright constitutional idea to reign in federal spending, but I hope they’re happy.  The taxpayers will now suffer the result.

I commend Senator Rapert & his co-sponsors, including Rep. Mark Biviano, for their courage & leadership on this issue.  The only way we’re ever going to reign in the federal government is through state-based solutions.  I am very thankful we have some members of the state legislature that understand this and are willing to fight to make it happen.

It also shows real leadership that Senator Rapert was willing to drop this issue for now and focus on a more pressing issue for the state at this time, our imminent Medicaid crisis.  With constitutional conservative fighters like Senator Rapert, I am confident we can avoid disaster, but it will not–and should not–be through tax increases.  It’s going to take cuts.  Will Democrats work with Republicans to solve the crisis, or will they continue to refuse to compromise?

 

Nic Horton

Would A Constitutional Convention Mean Chaos?

Constitutional nerds like myself should definitely check out this policy report from the Goldwater Institute about the founder’s vision for constitutional convention.  If you’re like me, you’ve always been a little bit cautious about the idea of having open-heart surgery on one of our nation’s founding documents.

But the folks at Goldwater provide some necessary perspective:

Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the states have the power to apply to Congress to hold a convention for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments. This power was meant to provide a fail-safe mechanism to control the federal government.

This report demonstrates that the historical record during the Founding era establishes a clear roadmap to guide the Article V amendment process. Among other seminal discoveries, this report reveals that the Framers rejected drafts of Article V that contemplated the very kind of wide-open convention that could “run away,” substituting instead a provision for a limited-scope convention, attended by state-chosen delegates, and addressed to specific subject matters.

Of course, abuses of the Article V constitutional amendment process are possible. But that possibility must be viewed against the clear and present danger to individual rights and freedom of doing nothing. This report recommends that states seriously consider initiating the Article V constitutional amendment process to restrain the federal government.

This is a particularly timely topic for discussion in Arkansas as Republican legislators recently announced their support for a National Debt Relief Amendment, which does in fact call for a constitutional convention.

Sure, there is plenty to be afraid of when you’re talking about giving people who want to cede state authority to the federal government a scalpel and letting them operate on our nation’s most precious organ, but perhaps, if we’re about to suffer a massive heart attack, a few stints are necessary.

Nic Horton

Requested White County Records ‘Purged, Not Necessarily Available’

This morning, I received a response to my FOI request that I filed with the White County Judge’s office last week requesting 1. All email correspondence between county OEM director Tamara Jenkins and the county judge from January 2009 to present and 2. All text messages sent and received on Tamara Jenkins’ phone since March 2009. 

Here is the response, in full:

Mr. Horton,

There is no e-mail correspondence to or from Tamara Jenkins on Judge Lincoln’s computer.  I contacted AT&T regarding text messages and was told by Ms. Stacey Carpenter that those records are purged and are not necessarily available.  In some cases they may be retrieved by subpoena for criminal cases but not for FOIA requests. Please feel free to call me at (501) 279-6200 with any questions or comments.

Lisa Brown

Adm. Asst.

White County Judge’s Office

Any way you slice this, this spells trouble for the judge’s office.  Either:

  1. They are violating FOI law and not sharing emails/deleting emails
  2. There has been no communication (at least electronically) between the judge and a major county department head in the last two years–someone whom he says he has ‘confidence in to do her job.’

Perhaps a little less confidence and a little more oversight could’ve prevented the misuse of taxpayer funds by Miss Jenkins.

Nic Horton