Community group opposes continued taxpayer subsidy for LR Chamber of Commerce | Arkansas Blog

Friday, June 21, 2013

Community group opposes continued taxpayer subsidy for LR Chamber of Commerce

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 6:43 AM

I shared yesterday an approving e-mail sent around by Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce boss Jay Chesshir cheering the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's attack on Social Security and Medicare, vital programs that it likes to refer to sneeringly as "entitlements," as opposed to payroll tax-supported insurance programs.

My point was that the lobbying illustrates the kind of anti-worker agenda the city of Little Rock supports when it hands out an unconstitutional and unaccountable annual $200,000 taxpayer subsidy to the chamber every year.

The grassroots Arkansas Community Organizations took note and wrote a letter to Chesshir's traveling buddy, Mayor Mark Stodola expressing alarm at the agenda backed by the city's most influential lobby. It calls for an end to "taxpayer dollars going to an organization that actively lobbies for policy positions that could have dire consequences for working families in our city." It notes, too, the chamber's work for preferable tax treatment for corporations, including for overseas investments.

The City of Little Rock’s annual funding to the Chamber would seem to put the City on record as supporting cuts in the Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security. It puts city government on record as supporting overseas tax havens for large corporations and cuts to needed programs for our children and our seniors.

True, that.

The full letter follows;

Dear Mayor Stodola,

It was with shock that we read today a report about an e-mail being circulated among local Chamber of Commerce officials about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Thousands of people in our city have paid into Social Security and Medicare and depend on these programs for their income and their health care. Medicaid has brought needed health coverage to children and to low-income seniors. Soon many lowwage workers will be able to purchase health coverage through the expansion of our state’s Medicaid program.

These so called “entitlements” are vital to the people of this city and this state and a major boost to our local economy.

We are writing because we are deeply troubled by the City of Little Rock’s continued subsidies to the Greater Little Rock Regional Chamber of Chamber. We do not want our taxpayer dollars going to an organization that actively lobbies for policy positions that could have dire consequences for working families in our city.

The Chamber and big corporations actively lobby at all level of government for tax breaks and subsidies for big business. We have a federal tax system that allows corporations to set up overseas tax havens in order to defer paying their taxes indefinitely. The Chamber and groups such as Fix the Debt are spending millions to urge Congress to create a “tax holiday” for big corporations with offices overseas and a “territorial tax system” that will allow companies such as Apple, Verizon and Exxon Mobil to continue to avoid paying US taxes.

The sequester cuts are affecting many needed programs important to our neighborhoods such as Meals on Wheels and Head Start. If we ended the corporate “entitlement” to large tax subsidies, we could raise the revenue needed to restore funding to these programs.

The City of Little Rock’s annual funding to the Chamber would seem to put the City on record as supporting cuts in the Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security. It puts city government on record as supporting overseas tax havens for large corporations and cuts to needed programs for our children and our seniors.

While we strongly disagree with the Chamber’s policy positions, many of us have also worked positively with local Chamber officials on projects that benefit our city.

We simply do not believe that taxpayers should be funding this organization given its extensive lobbying activity and its advocacy for policies that will harm working families.

We have provided a link to the place on the Chamber’s website that promotes cuts to the programs that so many of your constituents depend on.

Sincerely,

Gloria Smith
Donna Massey

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