Earlier this week, Bell told the Arkansas Project that one of his legislative priorities is to allow legislators to opt out of membership of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The national coalition is an educational, bi-partisan organization that provides legislators continuing education and networking opportunities. In theory, when state legislators from around the country convene they might pick up some good ideas from colleagues from other states.
Here's how the Arkansas Project frames Bell's issue with NCSL and his proposed measure:
Right now, state legislators are automatically entered into a left-leaning legislative coalition, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), at the cost of the taxpayer. Legislators are given no choice as to whether or not they want to join the group. Bell’s reform would give legislators a $500 allowance to join a coalition of their choice, saving the taxpayers money in cases where some legislators choose not to partake or to join a cheaper coalition and giving legislators, well, freedom.
The cost, Bell mentions, is $151,850, about $1,100 per legislator, all together equal to a rounding error as a portion of the state budget. Bell doesn't explicitly say this, but it's clear: He plans to save taxpayers money by only participating in ALEC, which is free because of corporate subsidies. But as a new study by Good Jobs First and the Iowa Policy Project details, ALEC's policies have significant costs.
"We tested ALEC's claims against actual economic results," said Dr. Peter Fisher, primary author of the study. "We conclude that eliminating progressive taxes, suppressing wages, and cutting public services are actually a recipe for economic inequality, declining incomes, and undermining public infrastructure and education that really matter for long-term economic growth."
The study dissects the methodology used by ALEC's lead author Arthur Laffer and his co-authors. It finds that their arguments and evidence range from deeply flawed to nonexistent, consistently ignoring decades of peer-reviewed academic research. Instead, Laffer et al repeatedly engage in methodologically primitive approaches such as two-factor correlations and comparing arbitrary small numbers of states instead of all 50.
Regardless of what you think of the value of NCSL or ALEC for that matter, this is typical Republican budget slashing: find something that's meaningless in the grand scheme of things and try to sell it as curbing government waste.
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