Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Morning report: Magical Tommy Moll, Asa's mysterious math

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 6:39 AM

Morning report. Not much to shout about:

* BLUE HOG CATCHES A CARPETBAGGER: Blue Hog Report does a little Internet cache searching to find an interesting tidbit. Tommy Moll, the recently arrived (a la Tom Cotton) easterner hoping to claim the 4th District congressional seat Cotton rented with Club for Growth money, has been scrubbed from the 2012 list of New York leaders of the Foreign Policy Initiative. Blue Hog finds the listing that showed him a member in 2012, something that complicates the sincerity of Moll's touted sixth-generation Arkansas roots. Allies of Moll's Republican primary opponent, Rep. Bruce Westerman, are already whining about the Red State blog's endorsement of Moll, a fairly dishonest recitation of Westerman's role in the legislature's adoption of Obamacare and also notably lacking in specific praise of Moll's non-existent record. None of this — carpetbagging, lack of political achievement — troubled some of the same people, by the way, in their backing of the carpetbagging Tom Cotton. But it promises a nasty party primary.

* SCORE A POINT FOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Republican gubernatorial front-runner Asa Hutchinson said flatly yesterday at a forum on public schools that he opposed school vouchers. So, too, did Democratic candidate Mike Ross. Good for Hutchinson.

* DEDUCT A POINT FOR ASA HUTCHINSON: We probably wrote too much yesterday about Hutchinson's proposal to cut the state income tax for people making between $20,000 and $75,000. The Arkansas tax brackets are too flat and need broadening. Hutchinson's approach is populist and moves in some ways in a positive direction, by omitting a cut for top income taxpayers, but it has problems. One is that he's wrong when he says a carryover surplus can pay for it the first year and growth thereafter. Coming tax cuts, a slow economy and hard math dispute that. Another is that his plan has bracket cliffs that are cockamamie.  He creates a dual marginal rate. For example, people making more than $75,000 a year would pay 7 percent on income above $34,000. People making less than $75,000 would pay 6 percent on income between $34,000 and $74,999. The not-hypothetical result: A difference in income of $2 — from $74,999 to $75,001 — would cost the taxpayer $410 on an additional $2 in income. This turns progressive taxation upside down. The same "cliff" exists on the marginal rate reduction Hutchinson proposes on income between $20,000 and $34,000. There, a $1 difference in income — between $33,999 and $34,000 — could cost you $140. Hutchinson's campaign is also resisting providing its unspecified adjustments to the plan to the Department of Finance and Administration for a thorough assessment of its cost. That they won't do so fuels the suspicion that the numbers are baked. The cost is likely higher than Hutchinson claims, as DFA has already indicated. We know for a fact that the surplus won't pay for it. Still, Asa has a stronger message pitch here than Mike Ross' tax cut for manufacturers' equipment purchases. Proper fix: Broadening income tax brackets with a smooth progressive tax that reflects inflation since the tax was first adopted almost 40 years ago and add a new step. maybe 7.5 percent, at the very high end to make up for lost revenue. (I know it's a political non-starter.)

* THE UBIQUITOUS CCTV: If one were to believe everything one hears, you'd think reports of a late-night Little Rock escapade hold implications for multiple political races in 2014. Requests for information are pending.

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