A special interest legislative session begins today | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A special interest legislative session begins today

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2015 at 6:47 AM

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The Arkansas legislature convenes today for a special session dominated by two special interest items:

* CORPORATE WELFARE: The legislature seems inclined to vote to spend $6 million a year for 20 years — or a total of almost $120 million — to subsidize a military vehicle factory that Lockheed Martin might build in Camden if it wins a defense contract. Money will presumably be growing on trees by the time the bid is award to cover the state cost.

Arkansas's tiny Libertarian Party has been heard from on the issue with a news release this morning that said, in part:

Arkansas currently has an outright debt of about $3 billion. If you include unfunded pension and other retirement debts that jumps to a whopping $38 billion! Now the Governor wants to add another $87 million to our debt as a gift to Lockheed Martin in the hopes that they might employ a few hundred Arkansans. This is a completely unnecessary expenditure of corporate welfare. Lockheed Martin has just as good a chance of winning a taxpayer funded contract to construct military vehicles here in Arkansas without an $87 million dollar gift. It is nothing more than a cash payout to a huge firm that employs an army of lobbyists and doles out significant campaign contributions - a quid pro quo arrangement that hurts all Arkansans not in the "political class." This comes just a short time after our last governor requested and got $125 million dollars of our hard earned tax dollars to give to Big River steel so they could open a new steel plant to compete with the existing Nucor Steel in our state.

Bringing business and industry to Arkansas is important so that good jobs are available throughout the state. If spending is needed to improve infrastructure (roads, ports, training, etc...) for that - go ahead and budget for that in the regular BALANCED budget. I'm all for it. I'd also love to see a tax policy that lowers taxes for everyone and creates a climate for job growth that benefits everyone, not just one or two picked "winners." Going further into debt just to give a multi-million dollar gift to one corporation, however, is outrageously irresponsible and reprehensible and should not even be considered.

I continue to be struck by the irony of poor Arkansas GIVING $120 million to support a major defense contractor whose budget dwarfs that of the state of Arkansas. It's as if a bunch of potential Walmart clerks got together to borrow money to give to the Waltons to build a new store in hopes of creating a few jobs.

* REPUBLICAN WELFARE: The Republican Party nabobs have dictated a desire for a Southern presidential primary March 1 so Republican-controlled Arkansas will pass legislation to join the show. This will mean delaying the regular session of the legislature from February go April. This will mean filing for office 14 months before the term begins, in November 2015. It's a huge boon to incumbents. All this for the shaky  justification that it will give Arkansas a voice in selecting a (Republican) presidential nominee. No, we'll be as slightly consequential as always. But bad ideas  are abundant these days and typically well received. This is a particularly bad idea because it's particularly aimed at helping Mike Huckabee, the Florida right-wing evangelical who's devoting most of his energy to vowing to defy the U.S. Supreme Court and defending Duggars.

The schedule today contains no special interest breakfasts, dinners, cocktail parties or other free hog slops. Somehow, I still believe where there's a lobbyist credit card there's a way to be figured out to employ it. We'll keep watch

A joint committee will hear about the wonders of corporate welfare this afternoon to get things rolling. The House convenes at 3 p.m.

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