Good morning Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good morning Arkansas

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 6:32 AM

The AM roundup:

* DO THE MATH: So the final motions are underway for a $35 million tax cut package. Tell me again how this makes sense when: 1) state employees get no raise (I know, screw those slugs); 2) the governor says $20 million or so must be cut from other spending; 3) we still don't have a workout on the extra paycheck anomaly forced by the calendar; 4) state agencies don't adequately regulate environmental and other damage caused by the gas drilling industry; 5) Medicaid is on the verge of implosion; 6) the highway contractors are seeking $100 million or so in tax increases to build freeways; 7) car title fees have been increased 100 percent; 8) and I don't know what all. But, by golly, we'll have a sales tax holiday so Sen. Missy Irvin no longer has to drive to Branson (burning however many gallons of $3.50 gas in the process) to save $5 on school supplies.

* MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION: Coincidentally, the NY Times notes what happens when state revenues constrict. The impact rolls downhill to cities and counties. And when the state piles on highway taxes, mostly to benefit truckers, it makes it harder to raise already high local taxes.

* ROBOHUCK: Republicans and Democrats alike in Wyoming are unhappy about unending robocalls from Mike Huckabee about repealing health care reform. He's naturally enlisted in a pressure group's cause as part of his presidential campaign effort.

* DIESEL TAX: Brummett reviews the comic opera of action on the diesel tax increase. But he lets the legislators off the hook too easily. If this is such a good deal — a modest diesel tax increase (we remain competitive with other states) offset by a whopping rig sales tax giveaway to build smoother freeways for the truckers who destroy them — it's worth a man-up, woman-up approval by the elected representatives themselves.

* PETTY POLITICS: There's a bill in the hopper to exempt all elevators on the Capitol campus from regulation by the elevator safety board. Why, you ask? It's Secretary of State Mark Martin's bill, according to the sponsor, Rep. Barry Hyde, though Martin's spokesman insists the bill comes from the Labor Department, which houses the elevator safety board. (The Labor Department also says it's Martin's bill.) It's all about a decrepit freight elevator at the Frat House, otherwise known as the Capitol Hill apartments, where select legislators are housed by Innkeeper Martin. There's a question of whether the elevator can continue to receive a waiver from elevator safety regulations. A fix could cost $1.8 million for a new elevator, which Martin understandably would like to avoid. Best I can tell, Martin is jousting for a political win over the elevator regulators, with the legislation to pressure granting of another waiver. He's reportedly been unwilling to accept legislation that would merely exempt the freight elevator. My solution: Close the frat house.

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