Ruling on tax money for chambers of commerce gets statewide notice | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ruling on tax money for chambers of commerce gets statewide notice

Posted By on Sat, Jan 10, 2015 at 7:13 AM

I wrote last week that there'd be statewide ripple effects from Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce's ruling that Little Rock and North Little Rock were unconstitutionally providing taxpayer subsidies to local chambers of commerce and a chamber-run development organization

Pierce ruled that the Arkansas Constitution prohibits municipal payments to private corporations and that the cities' effort to call the money service contracts was an artifice — lipstick on a pig in his memorable words.

The ruling likely will be appealed. 

Meanwhile, th
e Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce has sent an alarm to chambers of commerce around the state. I've obtained a memo sent by Susie Marks, senior vice president for programs at the State Chamber:

Attached and below is excerpt from a ruling from Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce concerning local chambers and economic development organizations that receive funding via contract from their local municipality.

Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce today granted a partial summary judgment in favor of a taxpayer lawsuit over payments by the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock to chambers of commerce. Pierce held that the payments violated the state constitutional prohibition against municipal appropriations to private corporations and enjoined any further payments.

Although this ruling was made from a case involving chambers and economic development organizations in Little Rock and North Little Rock, there is a high probability this ruling will have a ripple effect across the state. We need to know as soon as possible if you have a contract with your local municipality for economic development, marketing or any other services. This is of high importance and we would like to gather this information as soon as possible.

When responding please let me know the type of contract (ED, A&P, etc), the amount, staff paid from the contract and the reporting you provide back to the municipality.

The taxpayers' lawsuit, supported by the Arkansas Public Law Center, of which I'm a board member, and argued by the McMath Law Firm, has already brought a number of inquiries from people around the state anxious to be sure their cities fall in line. I've received reports of at least two cities that continued subsidy payments to local chambers this week. With the lawsuit pending and a hearing for summary judgment scheduled, the city of Little Rock authorized a continued $350,000 subsidy of Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce in its 2015 budget.

Reporting is a key element of the legal dispute. The city gets no meaningful accounting for how its money is spent. The lawsuit argued that the money provides no specific services, but merely subsidizes the salaries and expenses of Chamber employees who'd be doing the same work anyway, along with their political lobbying on a variety of topics on which there is, to put it mildly, sharp differences of opinion among those who provide the city its tax money. The city is friendly to the chamber because it provides the structural support and money for tax-increase campaigns.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Two more get prison for feeding program fraud

    Two more people got prison sentences today for defrauding the state-run program that uses federal money to provide meals to poor children.
    • Aug 18, 2017
  • Friday's open line

    Here's today's video. And it is the open line.
    • Aug 18, 2017
  • Steve Bannon leaving White House

    The odious Steve Bannon, right-wing nationalist, is departing his White House job as strategist for Donald Trump.  Alas, Trump is still there.
    • Aug 18, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016
  • 'Million-Dollar Thursday': A visit to Sherwood's hot check court

    We take a visit to the weekly hot check court in Sherwood District Court, the subject of a recent civil rights lawsuit filed by ACLU Arkansas and others, who say the system there results in a modern-day debtor's prison
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Another Republican miracle-working governor

    Great piece in Washington Post on the budget crisis in Louisiana. Big tax cuts and corporate welfare will do that to a state, particularly to a state whose previous governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, refused to join the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion. There's a lesson there for Arkansas.
    • Mar 4, 2016

Most Shared

  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Friday's open line

    • Even more organizations have pulled out of holding charity events at Mar-A-Lago. That makes a…

    • on August 18, 2017
  • Re: Friday's open line

    • So now we know, as I have always suspected, that Gyl's sympathies are with the…

    • on August 18, 2017
  • Re: Steve Bannon leaving White House

    • What do you do with a piece of shit like Trump? He'll react like he…

    • on August 18, 2017



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation