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Early voting for the Nov. 7 general election begins Oct. 23. Like it or not, the Arkansas Times will be making recommendations, starting today.
Besides the candidates, two issues will be on the statewide ballot. Referred Question No. 1 would authorize the state to issue up to $250 million in general obligation bonds for capital improvements and new technology programs at the state colleges and universities. Enrollment at these institutions has increased 25 percent in the last four years.
The proposal essentially is the same as one that was narrowly rejected by voters in a December 2005 special election. Higher education officials and their allies are waging a stronger campaign this year, and they believe they will benefit from placing the proposal on the general election ballot.
The act will not raise taxes. Instead, the bonds would be serviced by extending the life of a 1989 higher education bond issue. The state now pays about $24 million a year on the existing bond debt. Question No. 1, referred to the people by the legislature, would limit to $24 million the amount of new bonds issued in any one fiscal year.
Supporters of the bond proposal say that the percentage of college graduates in a state is directly related to per capita income. Arkansas ranks 49th in both. Vote FOR Referred Question No. 1.
Constitutional Amendment No. 1 would legalize bingo and raffles conducted by non-profit groups such as churches, schools and fraternal organizations. The amendment accomplishes this end by declaring that bingo and raffles are not lotteries, which are prohibited by the Arkansas Constitution. That’s a fairly brazen declaration, but large holes have already been knocked in the anti-lottery law with the installation of slot machines at the state’s two race tracks. It would be churlish to deny the same privilege to churches, Elks Clubs and VFW posts. Vote FOR Amendment 1.
The Arkansas Times said in an editorial Sept. 28 that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had not shown support for an earned income tax credit. We have since been furnished with an April 6 D-G editorial, opposing an increase in the minimum wage, in which the D-G said, “So in a perfect world there would be no minimum wage but, in order to help workers just starting out, Arkansas would adopt a state version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.” The editorial also said, “But let’s do keep a state EITC in mind for the next regular session of the Legislature. It’s an idea worth considering.”