Favorite

A tale of two taxes 

The organized campaigns for and against the tax proposals to be voted on Sept. 13 by a small subset of Little Rock kicked off this past week. The pro-tax Committee for Little Rock's Future emphasizes that "the penny" will go to "create a bold vision for Little Rock." The group opposing the proposals calls them a "$500 million tax" and says that's too much.

It's smart politics to simplify the issue by hermetically connecting the issues, but the voters on Sept. 13 actually will cast two votes on two fundamentally different tax measures. Voters — the final legislators in this referendum — need to think about these taxes (and their impact on the city) individually. If they do so, more split tickets may be cast than either side expects — or wants.

The arguments for the second ballot item — a permanent 5/8-cent sales tax for operating expenses — are markedly stronger. The sales tax is an inherently regressive tax, but the state constitution sharply limits the revenue enhancement tools available to municipalities. Little Rock also is a special case because many suburbanites and tourists use city roads and services on a daily basis and would pay a decent share of the tax.

Whatever the problems of city government, there is simply no doubt that Little Rock needs more revenues for its current services and the mostly worthwhile new projects to be covered by the permanent tax. The opposition claims that this tax is too big, but does not argue that additional revenues aren't needed. The city's inability to meet its contractual obligations to raise the pay of police and firefighters and the closure of alert centers in challenged neighborhoods a year ago will be nothing compared to the ugly budgeting process in the years ahead without new revenues. If raised, the permanent sales tax will still be below many Arkansas cities that lack the complex issues facing the state's largest city.

A rebuilding of trust between government and citizens, a plan to close race and class divides in the city, and a sense that public schools in every part of the community work are all essential to propel the city forward. But, new revenue is fundamental for the city to progress.

The justification for the other ballot item — a 3/8-cent tax that covers a variety of capital projects across its 10-year lifespan — is considerably weaker. Some of the projects to be funded by this tax (such as the new 12th Street police station) benefit poorer parts of the city, but more benefit wealthier West Little Rock and business interests. The city failed to pay for sprawl to the west with impact fees and now proposes that all of its citizens pay for new roads and firehouses in that area with this tax. As a result this tax plan is decidedly more regressive. While many of the "economic development" components in the proposal can most charitably be deemed "ill-defined," other parts will indeed immediately create lower-wage (but essential) jobs that will benefit parts of the city facing enormous unemployment rates. The creation of needed jobs and a number of valuable services (goals markedly absent from the recent national economic debates) nudge me towards a "yes" on the 3/8-cent tax at this writing, but I continue to grapple with this second ballot item.

Thoughtful, progressive folks are front and center in both the pro- and anti-tax campaigns. It's crucial for the city's lawmakers — in this case the rank and file voters — to ask tough questions in the month ahead so that they make the right call on these two tax proposals.

Jay Barth is the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Distinguished Professor of Politcs at Hendrix College.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Little Rock Sales Tax

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Gun politics

    "You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • A failed experiment

    Many consequential news events — from local to international — are getting lost in this era of nonstop, overlapping "breaking news" stories regarding all things Donald Trump.
    • Jun 15, 2017
  • Press slammed

    Last week, the American media got another battering, in the form of a Montana congressional candidate's brutal attack on a young reporter simply doing his job.
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • War reporter

    Ray Moseley: Native Texan. Naturalized Arkansan. Reporter, world traveler, confidant of Queen Elizabeth II.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Vote no on school tax

    I have never voted against a school tax in my life, but I will be voting against the debt service millage extension for the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • I have attended community meetings about the recent spike in violence in LR, and police…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Adawson's comments attribute the plight of black people in the United States to the War…

    • on July 22, 2017
 

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