Favorite

Benny Petrus' bright idea 

Benny Petrus has a point, but Mike Beebe is in a box. Petrus, the incoming speaker of the state House of Representatives, says that repealing the sales tax on groceries — Beebe’s centerpiece of a campaign promise — is not the best way to help Arkansas’s working poor people.

Carving out personal income tax cuts from the lowest incomes upward until you’ve granted as much monetary relief as you’d bestow with grocery tax removal — that’s a better way to go, Petrus says.

His plan would target those actually needing help. It would let the state extract tax proceeds from, for example, the thousands of people from out of state who come to Benny’s region over around Stuttgart to hunt ducks a couple of months every year.

Petrus wonders why we would give a drug dealer or an illegal immigrant a break on groceries when we could give a law-abiding and low-income working man a break on his state income tax?

Petrus, who sells cars for a living, was selling this argument to me, and I was buying.

I asked him what Beebe had said about it. He said Beebe “seems pretty tied down” to his campaign promise to phase out the sales tax on groceries.

Petrus told me he understands that the food tax phase-out “polled well” for Beebe in the governor’s race, and he emphasized that he’ll be on Beebe’s side 95 percent of the time. He, like Beebe, is a fairly typical Arkansas Democrat with center and center-right leanings and a rural sensitivity.

But on this one issue, albeit the main one, Petrus simply thinks he has a better idea. And he says it’s his idea alone. I asked him which lobbyists had brought it to him. He did not seem to appreciate the question. Ever since term limits, I catch myself asking legislators things like that.

Even if Beebe saw the greater justice and wisdom in Petrus’ notion, as I rather think he does, he’d be hard-pressed to admit it. That would burden him right out of the gate with having to explain to the people who’d voted for him that he wasn’t going to do precisely that main thing he’d promised during the campaign to do.

But Petrus has a suspicion that people aren’t going to understand something else — that Beebe does not intend to touch city and county sales taxes on groceries. He thinks they’re not going to like reading in the newspaper that the tax is removed, then seeing the remains of it at the bottom of a long supermarket receipt.

Beebe will fall back on the injustice of the grocery tax generally. He’ll probably prevail, since a Democratic legislature is not going to let the first Democratic governor in more than a decade lose his signature issue.

But Beebe will have to win a legislative fight rather than an argument, because Petrus is right.

Let’s say Beebe proposes to remove half the sales tax on groceries. That’s $120 million taken annually from the operating budget, given to taxpayers who buy food, meaning all of us.

The dollar benefits will accrue in proportion to the amount and price of food one buys. The rich guy will pay no sales tax on fresh shrimp flown in from the Gulf yesterday. The poor guy will pay no sales tax on macaroni and cheese.

True, the percentage of over-all income is more for the poor guy and his macaroni and cheese. But Petrus would give all the $120 million to the poor guy.

Getting rid of the grocery tax will be a good thing. It’s just won’t be the best thing.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

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 »

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.

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

August

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 Recent Comments

  • Re: On Charlottesville

    • Then allow your self to educated. Living as white, is not condescending a lot of…

    • on August 18, 2017
  • Re: On Charlottesville

    • Regardless of the source, Runner, that phrase "living as white" is disgusting and condescending IMO…

    • on August 18, 2017
  • Re: On Charlottesville

    • "Eston Hemings's descendants, who have lived as whites..." That phrase right there tells you all…

    • on August 18, 2017
 

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