Wal-Mart’s new boss 

Wal-Mart's new boss

Wal-Mart surprised the investment community last week by announcing that Mike Duke, a top international division officer, would succeed Lee Scott as CEO of the Bentonville-based retailer in February.

Some news articles suggested the announcement was timed for the incoming change of administration in Washington to Democrat Barack Obama. New leadership would give Wal-Mart a “more appealing face,” said one news account.

Perhaps, but Republican tendencies run deep in Bentonville. Federal Election Commission records show two contributions by Duke to a federal candidate — $2,300 to Republican Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign and $2,300 to Republican nominee John McCain.



More alcohol taxes

Joe Hill, director of the Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, says the Association of Substance Abuse Treatment Providers Association will try again this session to raise the tax on alcohol by an as-yet unspecified amount to provide money for drug treatment, both residential and outpatient; drug prevention programs, and domestic violence shelters.

Sen. Hank Wilkins of Pine Bluff will sponsor the legislation. Wilkins' involvement raises a question. He's the pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, which received a controversial state grant in September for a substance abuse prevention resource center. Some objected to a grant going to a church pastored by a legislator.

Wilkins and Hill said the alcohol tax money would not go to the resource center, though the center would offer technical assistance to community-based nonprofits that sought the new money. “So far I haven't seen that indicates a conflict of interest,” Hill said.

Prospects for the legislation?

“There is always a resistance to additional taxes and fees and part of what we have to do is help people to see how the state benefits, how individuals and families benefit,” Wilkins said. 

“But in this case, this would be a tax on recreational goods.  In other words, it's not like a grocery tax that makes it more difficult on poor families, because everybody has to eat.  People don't have to drink.”  



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