Favorite

The genius of 'Huckabucks' 

If Gov. Mike Huckabee's first days in office are a window on his administration, good sense and manners will often take flight but the peanut gallery will never return to their seats.

First, Huckabee moved the execution of a death-row inmate up six weeks from the date set by Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Huckabee and not Tucker will now get credit for snuffing out that execrable life. One remembers the last day in office of Gov. Orval Faubus. His only sleepless night in 12 turbulent years, Faubus said, were those preceding an execution, when he wrestled with the awful knowledge that he had the power to spare the wretched life or at least add some time for redemption. Bring it on, the sooner the better, Gov. Huckabee seemed to say.

He followed that by the announcement that he was wiping out the sales tax on groceries. This time, the governor did take a page out of the political playbook of Faubus, who knew the power of symbols and of a timely government check. Faubus would increase welfare checks by $5--in October, right before elections.

Gov. Huckabee actually isn't proposing to do a thing to the sales tax on groceries. It will go up by an eighth of a cent, not down, under his scenario. He endorsed a sales tax for recreation, on the ballot in November.

Stripped of the rhetoric, here is what the governor proposes: He would give about 2.3 million Arkansans--everybody except convicted criminals and the 250,000 poorest people--a state check for $25 to $50 every October. The amount would depend on the economy, apparently.

The poorest people wouldn't get checks because they receive federal stamps to help them with grocery costs from time to time. Farmers who receive large federal subsidies and rich investors who receive multiple tax shelters would get the checks, but not the poor. Though food stamp purchases are exempt from the sales tax, recipients still pay a higher share of their income on the sales tax than most of us.

Though everyone will pay slightly higher grocery taxes, the governor said the $25 or $50 checks should represent to people part of the money they spend on grocery taxes. People could just as well consider it a rebate of taxes on utilities, gasoline, property or any other commodity.

If the governor wants to exempt groceries from the sales tax, he should just propose it. The argument that it would create problems for merchants, who would have to separate non-food items to be taxed, is baloney. Most other states do it and our merchants are equipped to separate items now. The problem for merchants is that many would lose a source of modest profits if the tax were repealed. They get to keep a portion of tax receipts.

The flexible cash rebate was calculated for maximum political benefit (and will go by the wayside at the first recession, as it did in New Mexico). Other states give some form of rebate for grocery taxes for low-income people by refundable credits through the income tax system. Bill Sherman, a state representative, almost got such a plan through the legislature in 1983, but senior legislators persuaded Gov. Bill Clinton at the last minute to dishonor his word and foil it.

People would have the money much earlier in the year and it would be easier to administer if it were treated as a tax credit. Why wouldn't Huckabee do it that way? No reason but this: A check from the administration will be a timely reminder of who their benefactor is. If they need reminding where the Huckabucks come from, there will be a letter.

The justification for the rebate is this year's $97 million surplus. Remember why there was been a substantial surplus each year under Tucker: He budgeted tightly. State parks and some other agencies were given no increase in funds--they were expected to raise their own from fees.

Huckabee said he would work to ratify the constitutional amendment raising the sales tax an eighth of a cent to pay for tourism and recreation, which would raise $35 million to $40 million a year and couldn't be repealed because it will be in the constitution. Why not just raise those appropriations from existing tax receipts instead of raising taxes? More simply, why give people $50 million or $60 million each year and then raise their taxes by $40 million? If you can get credit for both, why not?

Print headline: "The genius of 'Huckabucks'" August 2, 1996.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Flooding the swamp

    It became clear the first week of his presidency what Donald Trump meant with his repeated campaign pledges to "drain the swamp," the moneyed culture of Wall Street and corporate lobbyists who dictate the laws and rules of governing in Washington.
    • May 17, 2018
  • Politics rule in court

    One of the privileges of a columnist is to beat a dead horse, and a recurring liberty of this one is to mourn the decline of the rule of law, which, like nearly everything in the public sphere, is now displaced by politics.
    • May 10, 2018
  • Pray for the poor

    Praying for the poor was always a harmless offense in the halls of government, as long as you never insinuated that leaders should actually help the downtrodden and infirm. But last week, it got a Jesuit priest fired as the chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.
    • May 3, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Shrugging off sulfides

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.
    • Mar 29, 2018

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Flooding the swamp

    It became clear the first week of his presidency what Donald Trump meant with his repeated campaign pledges to "drain the swamp," the moneyed culture of Wall Street and corporate lobbyists who dictate the laws and rules of governing in Washington.
    • May 17, 2018
  • Politics rule in court

    One of the privileges of a columnist is to beat a dead horse, and a recurring liberty of this one is to mourn the decline of the rule of law, which, like nearly everything in the public sphere, is now displaced by politics.
    • May 10, 2018
  • Pray for the poor

    Praying for the poor was always a harmless offense in the halls of government, as long as you never insinuated that leaders should actually help the downtrodden and infirm. But last week, it got a Jesuit priest fired as the chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.
    • May 3, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Bad law

    Ideally, every addict would have free access to excellent inpatient treatment immediately and could obtain leave from work and financial obligations so they could take advantage of that opportunity. But that isn't the reality of the world we live in here in Arkansas.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Bad law

    • The article about the Bay Area addresses the Homeless issue, not drug users or syringes…

    • on May 21, 2018
  • Re: Bad law

    • The link about the Bay Area speaks on addressing the problem of homelessness. It says…

    • on May 21, 2018
  • Re: Talking baseball

    • Vanessa, yeah, i umped as well, and people are different, but i found umping to…

    • on May 19, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation