Sunday, June 12, 2016

Arkansas is starving UAMS — and the rest of state government, too

Posted By on Sun, Jun 12, 2016 at 9:33 AM

click to enlarge UAMS: State starvation continues.
  • UAMS: State starvation continues.
An article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning provides a useful reminder of the ongoing state starvation of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The state's miserliness with UAMS is old news. Here, for example. But I don't think citizens can be reminded enough of the shame of being outdone — badly — by Mississippi when it comes to supporting the state's major medical teaching institution. Deficits continue; maintenance is being deferred. After matching money for Medicaid and the like, UAMS gets $21 million in state support. The University of Mississippi's medical facility got $185 million against UAMS' overall about $100 million, most going to matching.

Without federal Obamacare money, UAMS would have been facing massive layoffs.

Without federal Obamacare money, the state as a whole would be facing massive service reductions. As it is, the last income tax was paid for with Obamacare dollars.

Call Gov. Asa Hutchinson's approach stealth Brownback. There hasn't been an instant huge tax cut and instant huge spending cut along the lines of the Sam Brownback plan that wrecked Kansas, but it's happening incrementally. For example:

* Zero pay increases for state employees (except for the new high-level bureaucrats hired in the  Hutchinson era, inevitably better paid than their Beebe-era predecessors.)

* Zero increased support for higher education, despite their rising costs.

* Transfer of general revenues to highway building. (Money that would have supported other services.)

* The representation that "surpluses" — the product of slash-and-burn budgeting not significant rises in revenue — will allow still more income tax cuts. (Though, again, don't expect tax relief for the bottom 20 percent of wage earners left out of the last Hutchinson tax cut. They are viewed as undeserving.)

* The representation that if states ever are able to begin taxing retail interstate sales to plug the hole left by the migration of commerce from local stores to the web, Hutchinson intends to annex that money — not for public services — but for still more tax cuts.

And how, pray tell, will public services be preserved? Send in the unicorns.

Note: There are ways to raise money without increasing the sales or income tax. We could stop giving away tens of millions to Chinese communist paper mill owners and publicly financed startup competitors for steel mills that started the old-fashioned way, with private capital. We could tax any number of things now exempt — yes, including advertising. We could stop nonproductive tax breaks for businesses. We could end the consolidated tax reporting for national corporations that allows them a dodge around Arkansas income taxes.

Instead, we have Brownback light. Squeeze services, cut taxes, comfort corporations, not people, and pray that Sen. Tom Cotton doesn't have his way and end Obamacare. Because then we'll need a whole herd of unicorns.

Irony: The same tax-and-spend-averse legislators demanded a duplicative medical school in Northwest Arkansas and more medical seats so no child of a legislator, no matter how slow, will be left behind when MDs are handed out.

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