Favorite

Educate, medicate, incarcerate, ingratiate 

It's happened several times. I'm in some small to midsize Arkansas town to talk to the Democratic women or even the Republican women or the chamber of commerce. We gather in some sparkling little building with a meeting room adjoining a kitchen.

The local legislator smugly explains to me that we are assembled in a fine community center he or she got built by coming home from a legislative session with a share of surplus money for local capital projects in what's called the General Improvement Fund.

The point, you see, is that I've spent many words and much energy bellyaching over the years about how state legislators are so small-minded that all they want to do with their state legislating careers is come home with money from this GIF for these kinds of projects — play-pretties, I like to call them — when, in fact, the state would be better off reserving these funds for legitimate statewide needs.

I've also insisted repeatedly that, to the extent that state government can and should expend money for local projects, it ought to be done when tax collections are bountiful — as they most certainly are not right now.

I've also contended that local projects ought to be pre-audited rather than plugged into this General Improvement Fund willy-nilly by legislators.

I've even gone so far as to say there ought to be some local match for these funds.

The truth is that, while the community center is indeed nice, we could have had our little meeting at the school cafeteria or in the back room behind the folding doors at the Sizzlin'.

None of this endears me to state legislators, particularly rural ones, who decry that liberal you-know-what in Little Rock who writes for the newspaper and resents tax money being returned to needy folks out in the country.

But I'm just being fiscally conservative. And I'm just saying taxpayer money doesn't belong to legislators. And I'm just saying there ought to be some local responsibility to go with local control.

And I'm just saying that, when times are tough for state government, as they are now, we need to fall back on that old maxim that state government's job is to “educate, medicate and incarcerate,” meaning spend for schools, Medicaid and on prisons, not to placate or ingratiate.

So you can imagine that I'm worked up about what happened last week at this fiscal session of the legislature.
Expecting state budget constraints in the troubled economy, Gov. Mike Beebe last year managed to get $15 million that would normally go to this “legislative side” of GIF set aside for reconsideration in this fiscal session in case he might need it for one-time shortfalls in the regular state budget.

So now he says he needs it, or some of it. Counties deserve reimbursement from the state for holding state prisoners. It's a sure-enough state obligation, one that relieves local governments.

But legislators don't want to give up their play-pretties. So they have negotiated with Beebe and extracted this: If the governor takes any or all of this $15 million, they can replenish it at the end of the state fiscal year June 30 from state agency fund balances.

There'll always be extra dollars since state agencies can't spend to the penny over a year's time. In the past, that money has always been held in time deposits, earning interest, to be made available at the next session for the next GIF.

State legislators now propose to tap that money immediately, losing the interest earnings and using now what they always previously saved for later.

Sen. Jim Luker of Wynne, a fine fellow who once told me at the Clarendon Chamber of Commerce banquet that I was all wrong on these local projects, did warn his colleagues that they were “eating our own seed corn.”

But, hey, they're hungry.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

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 »

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.
  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

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 »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

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  

Most Viewed

  • Forget the hairdo

    As the 2018 races begin to heat up, we see more and more women running for office. And as more women run, we will see more of the seemingly endless critiques of their appearances.
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.
  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • O'Reilly should run for president. He's already cleared one major hurdle by proving he's a…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Intracity tourism

    • I love being a tourist in my own backyard. One of the advantages of being…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Art bull

    • Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…

    • on April 24, 2017
 

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