Little Rock scales down tax, not slush fund | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Little Rock scales down tax, not slush fund

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 6:03 AM

Mayor Mark Stodola floated a reduced city sales tax plan last night and the powers-that-be will rubberstamp it next Monday. He made it worse to the point of unsupportable.

Instead of a total tax increase of 1.25 cents on the dollar — three-quarters of a cent for operations and a temporary half-cent for "capital" projects — Little Rock management now proposes a solid penny. That would be 5-8ths of a cent for operations and a temporary 3-8ths for those supposed "capital" projects.

What's not to like about a smaller tax bite?

Simple: It is that the mayor simply can't quit his oversized economic development slush fund and he still refuses to say how the $38 million he wants to amass, carved down by a modest $2 million, would be spent.

Thanks to Director Joan Adcock for questioning how much money the city proposes to put in a "research park" to lure jobs. I still don't think buildings lure jobs, as the mayor seems to think. I think a trained workforce, raw materials, a vibrant city and a combination of other factors lure jobs. Thanks particularly to Director B.J. Wyrick, quoted in the Democrat-Gazette, “Help me understand how we spend $38 million when we have only 10 words to define [economic development],” said Wyrick.

Stodola complained that no one raised these questions when it was $40 million. That's a lie.

The city's new plan rests on resuming a deferred maintenance program for street and drainage repair after a few years of catchup work. It pares back a fire station in Southwest Little Rock and reduces firefighter hiring. It slashes proposed new spending on our beggared parks department. Animal shelter services? No help. And there's more by way of reductions in vital needs to produce a lower total tax bite. But the economic development slush fund takes only a 5 percent cut in an amount that was never explained or justified in the first place (even as the overall tax bite is reduced by 20 percent).

Does this sound like a city you want to live in? A city where essential services are left wanting in favor of a "trust-me" slush fund controlled by the shadowy economic development operation of a taxpayer-subsidized, unaccountable, anti-labor chamber of commerce?

Not me.

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