Monday, March 2, 2015

Mike Wilson again raises alarm over pork spending

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 1:41 PM

Mike Wilson, a Jacksonville lawyer and former legislator who filed a lawsuit that won an Arkansas Supreme Court decision curtailing pork barrel spending by the legislature, is on the warpath  because the legislature is up to its old tricks.

Wilson won a court ruling that the practice of dividing up surplus among legislators for pet projects — a rodeo arena here, a history museum grant there — amounted to unconstitutional local legislation.

But the legislature has found a way around that, with distributions to state agencies and regional planning and development districts that then split up the money according to local legislative wishes. We wrote last year about Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson directing money to a Saline County fireworks show. Last week, thanks to an unrelated controversy, we learned Rep. Eddie Armstrong had directed money to football team warmups at North Little Rock High School.

Wilson isn't happy. He wrote a letter to the editor worth broadcasting as the legislative hopper fills with General Improvement Fund spending bills. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he won't fall for the GIF routine. Writes Wilson:

Our General Assembly will soon decide the distribution of millions of taxpayer dollars known as the General Improvement Fund,m historically utilized for major capital projects at colleges and universities around the state and other statewide needs, but currently dribbled out through the subterfuge of "grants" ostensibly made by various state agencies and Planning and Development Districts, but actually at the direction of individual legislators to their pet local uses. quietly and with no attention from the media, each individual member is allocated a "share" of the GIF to "spend" as he or she sees fit, usually in his or her particular district. These "shares" are zealously guarded and treated as if they were personal property of the individual members, with no accountability for their proper use — no more than private slush funds essentially diverted to re-election campaigns.

This current practice has grown over the last several years to surreptitiously avoid the prohibition in our Constitution outlawing local and special acts giving away public funds without specifying a public purpose or providing accountability for the expenditure of the funds. Our Supreme Court unanimously prohibited such acts as recently as six years ago.

No doubt a small fraction of this GIF is directed to a few programs with merit or benefit to all state taxpayers. Most is not. Instead, some communities are blessed as more equal than others similarly situated with pressing needs for schools, public safety, technology, education, public health and so on. To his great credit, Governor Hutchinson has publicly announced his intention to properly utilize the GIF for statewide purposes in his budget proposals.

But in the last few days of this session there will be brought immense pressure from addicted senators and representatives to set aside major portions of the GIF to local uses cleverly disguised as "grants." These diversions will be hidden in numerous appropriation bills not reported in the press but summarized in the Fund Distribution Act where the appropriations are actually funded while the taxpayers sleep unaware.

Tags: , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault on Obamacare begins

    Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. Though the signing was mostly symbolic, it likely has implications for Arkansas.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • Two dead in North Little Rock shooting

    two people were fatally wounded about 9 p.m. Friday in a home in the 1400 block of Division Street, North Little Rock.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • 2nd Amendment meets the 1st in Fayetteville on campus carry

    They've had a forum in Fayetteville today on Rep. Charlie Collins' fervent desire to force more pistol-packing people onto the campus at the University of Arkansas (and every other college in Arkansas.) He got an earful from opponents.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Child abuse: What about the victims?

    A guest writer in the Arkansas Times, a victim of child sexual abuse, says Arkansas sends a message that it condones abuse by a lack of consequences for the Harrises and Duggars.
    • Jun 3, 2015
  • AHTD asks Metroplan to lift six-lane freeway cap

    The board of directors of Metroplan has informed the state highway department that it cannot act on the highway department's June 17 request to lift its six-lane freeway cap at the board's June 29 meeting. Consideration of the request should take four months, Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher wrote June 22 to highway department Director Scott Bennett.
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • Arkansas conservatives react to same-sex marriage decision

    Jason Rapert, Mike Huckabee, the Meeks bros, Jerry Cox — beyond these extremists, it's hard to find statements from other Arkansas conservatives. That tell you something?
    • Jun 26, 2015

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation