Governor Asa Hutchinson says he needs additional taxes to fund highways and roads. SB336 is part of his plan and would add an additional 3¢ a gallon to gasoline and 6¢ a gallon to diesel fuel.
He wants you to think his tax is about repairing those bad ole potholes. But, it is not about potholes or roads.
What is the real reason he wants to increase your taxes? The extra tax means politicians won’t have to prioritize spending, and they still will have plenty of money to waste and plenty of money to hand out to cronies.
Funding Highways – Tax or No Tax
Democrats always claimed some crisis as the reason for passing a new tax so they could protect government waste. That is why you pay more for state government than people in most other states. Now, many Republicans are using the same playbook. But not all Republicans are buying the ploy.
Republican state Representative Julie Mayberry isn’t buying it! She filed HB1541 to fund highways from existing funds. She was joined by cosponsors John Payton, Josh Miller, Robin Lundstrum, Clint Penzo, and Mickey Gates, but will the other politicians agree with her, or will they side with the Governor in protecting waste?
Representative Mayberry’s plan is competing with the Governor’s plan, but Mayberry’s plan has yet to get out of committee. Meanwhile the Governor’s plan has already passed the Senate and is ready for a final vote in the House.
If you want state government to live within a budget, the time is NOW to tell your Representative; otherwise enjoy paying higher taxes.
Arkansas Pillage and Waste
The Governor’s new tax protects waste instead of paying for highways out of the budget.
- Blindly spending money. Every year Arkansas agencies and institutions get an across the board funding increase without the legislature ever evaluating whether the programs are working or are important enough to need more funding. It is much easier to waste money than to do their jobs.
- Crony capitalism. The state dumps hundreds of millions of dollars into grants and special loans for favored businesses. This allows politicians to pick winners and losers. You pay higher taxes and most businesses pay higher taxes so politicians can siphon off tax money to give to corporations they have chosen as winners.
- Transportation Department. While the Transportation Department is crying “We need more money” what did they do? They took $1 million of your highway money and gave it to the University of Arkansas for a college building. Did the Governor and legislature punish the Transportation Department? Of course not. They didn’t care.
- Governor’s slush fund. It doesn’t matter whether you call it “Rainy Day Fund” or the most recent name “Long Term Reserve Fund” the Governor has a huge slush fund. He has spent discretionary funds faster than even his Democrat predecessor. For example, when the legislature rejected additional funding for a state institution, the Governor gave the intuition millions from his slush fund. He has used the slush funds to give money to private colleges and to fund projects of friends, such as for the construction of a taekwondo headquarters. [i]
- Failure to seek recovery of stolen grant money. General Improvement Funds were given as a grant to Ecclesia College, a private college. If that is not bad enough, Oren Paris III, who was the president of the college, conspired to give kickbacks to two Arkansas legislators. Paris and the legislators have been convicted for their crimes BUT state officials have done nothing to recover the money from the private college. Oh and don’t forget Senator Jake files took General Improvement Funds and stuck most of the money in his pocket.
- Department of Labor. When the Director of the Department of Labor misused state travel funds how was he punished? His travel budget was doubled.[ii]
- Department of Human Services – Computer system. The Department of Human Services spent $32 million on a computer system that did not work. Politicians said “Gee, that is bad,” and then started all over but with the projected total cost doubling from $100 million to $200 million.[iii]
- Picking the highest bidder. Governor Asa Hutchinson insisted on giving a Department of Human Services contract for information technology services to the highest bidder. This meant the state spend an extra $20.9 million for the project.[iv]
- Consultants galore. Every time you turn around state government is hiring consultants to advise them. Here are just three examples: The Marijuana Commission hired a consultant to evaluate applications. The Office of Arkansas Lottery is in the huge Department of Finance and Administration but now has a “lottery consultant.” The legislature stays busy hiring consultants. Recently the Arkansas Senate passed a bill to hire a consultant to study the Transportation Department. Arkansas is now a government of consultants.
- Legislators allowed to pad expenses. The legislature cares so little about public funds they allow any legislator to walk in to a legislative committee and get paid expense, even if they are not on the committee. When they sign in, they collect a lump sum for mileage, lodging, and meals, without ever having to provide any receipts.
We also wonder how much of our money is spent on boondoggles by legislators doing favors for hospitals, nursing homes, and other Medicaid providers with whom they share a financial interest. Just start with Preferred Family Healthcare and lobbyist Rusty Cranford’s guilty plea, and the answer is hundreds of millions. Yet the legislature wants to keep their financial relations with Medicaid providers a secret.
Despite the cry for more taxes there has been plenty of money to grow government. NO POLITICIAN wants to talk about how money is being spent for new programs. They certainly don’t want to talk about how much state money is being shifted to pay for Obamacare Medicaid Expansion.
There is still money to spend. Some of the same politicians who say there isn’t enough money and we need to raise the gas tax are also saying “Spending $20 million to combat the stump fire is no problem because we have lots of money.”
If you want state government to live within a budget, the time is NOW to tell your Representative; otherwise resign yourself to paying higher taxes.
You can find your legislator’s contact information at this link HERE.
[i] See the following articles: https://conduitforaction.org/rainy-day-spending-skyrocketing-under-governor-hutchinson/; https://conduitforaction.org/save-it-for-a-rainy-day/; https://conduitforaction.org/asa-gave-your-money/;