Favorite

Issue 3: blank check 

Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?

Invoking "jobs" is how you sell anything nowadays, whether it's casino gambling, legalized marijuana, tax cuts, deficit spending, gas fracking, coal burning or a border wall.

But what if the title of Issue 3 read "an amendment to allow government to raise unlimited taxes and spend them to help businessmen and industrialists turn a profit and to reward those who help them"? Might taxpayers take a jaundiced view of the proposition?

The second is actually a fair description of the amendment, which the Republican state legislature, with some Democratic help, put on the ballot. But there will be no money spent to tell voting taxpayers what the amendment would do to their pocketbooks and how it would control the way their tax dollars are spent. The amendment is flying as a noncontroversial proposition rather than the treasury raid that it is. Corporate welfare is the new definition of conservatism. There was little courage in the legislature to risk being called job killers by voting against the referral of Issue 3. Twenty-seven legislators voted "no" and another eight ducked the roll call.

Issue 3 has four components, only one of which is relatively benign. It would allow cities and counties to issue bonds for anything that could be called "economic development," not just a factory. They could borrow money in the taxpayers' name for a call center or corporate offices.

The other provisions erase the old limits in the Constitution on levying taxes and incurring government debt to support industries and other commercial enterprises and on spending taxpayers' funds for almost any business purpose. Technically, the legislature could spend all the revenues of the state to assist businesses, leaving nothing for highways, colleges, prisons, health care, fish and wildlife programs and the rest of government.

No one would expect the legislature to ever do such a thing, but Issue 3 would at least allow it to throw fiscal caution to the winds.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to reveal that the amendment's first objective is to reverse a court order in a lawsuit that I instigated in 2013 as a director of the Arkansas Public Law Center. Article 12 of the state Constitution prohibits cities and counties from appropriating money to private corporations and associations, a provision the drafters put in the charter in 1874 to stop cities from turning over their meager incomes to the railroads. In the 1990s, the state Chamber of Commerce told local chambers they should ask their local governments to give them operating grants every year because the chambers helped economic development. Dozens of cities, including Little Rock and North Little Rock, began doing it. Pulaski Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce ruled last year in Lynch v. Stodola that Article 12 had to be interpreted literally. Appropriating tax money to the chambers was illegal.

Issue 3, using the ruse of "amending" the provision, actually would repeal that constitutional law and allow cities and counties not only to fund chambers of commerce but to finance whole "economic development projects" with tax funds, including furnishing land, improvements, buildings, infrastructure, job training and environmental mitigation for almost any kind of commercial venture. Anything.

But all that is minor stuff. The amendment would clear the way for cities and counties to levy any kind of taxes to support new industries and businesses, not just the 5 mills of property taxes that are now allowed, and remove all the restrictions on financing superprojects that were imposed in constitutional amendments in 2004 and 2010, which allowed the state to go deeply into debt to finance infrastructure and other aids for large manufacturing projects, like the Mississippi County steel mill.

Currently, the legislature cannot borrow more for a new industry than 5 percent of the state's general revenues from the previous year, which would be $268 million. If voters ratify Issue 3, the lawmakers could ring up a state debt of $268 billion. If you want to be silly but still technical, $268 trillion, which is 14 times the current national debt. All of it, remember, would be to enhance business profits, not national defense, health care and education, the principal purposes of the national debt.

If you have serene confidence in the sanity and probity of all future legislatures, Issue 3 may still be for you.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • And while we're at it, Runner, the Wisconsin recount isn't finished yet, but as of…

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • In fact, Runner, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.7 million and counting, just…

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Stay the course

    • Thank you Autumn. I agree that we can not compromise an inch on the value…

    • on December 9, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation