by Max Brantley
You may remember that it was only November when voters approved a half-cent increase in the state sales tax to finance a $1.8 billion highway construction program. You'll recall, too, that a companion idea to raise the diesel tax to get a tiny portion back from truckers on the damage they cause to roads wasn't allowed to go forward.
The highway construction companies and Highway Department aren't satisfied. They want still more general revenue.
Draft legislation, with the support of many Republican legislators, is circulating to divert additional state general revenues from other uses to road construction. The bill would tap the sales tax on new and used cars and other transactions related to vehicles, such as battery sales and the like. As explained to me, the money would begin flowing when the sales and use tax hits $2.2 billion (it was at $2.128 billion in the year ended last June 30) and the highway department tapping of the revenue would be phased in, rather than all at once.
It's still a historic direct raid on general revenues i(as opposed to a voter-approved direct highway surcharge on the necessities of life) in a state that is not exactly robust.
And here's the real outrage and hypocrisy:
The Stepford Republican Caucus is close to the votes necessary to passing Rep. Bruce Westerman's government-strangling bill to impose an arbitrary cap on state spending growth. It would be capped at 3 percent or a three-year rolling average of revenue increases (less than 3 percent in recent times). It's bad business any way you slice it. Calamities couldn't be met. The legislature would cede appropriation authority to the executive official who has to make appropriated budgets balance. The occasional good year wouldn't allow for use of surplus on deferred maintenance and construction.
But never mind all that.
The Teabagging Republicans propose to sharply limit the growth of state spending AT THE SAME TIME THEY PROPOSE TO TAKE MILLIONS OUT OF GENERAL REVENUE FOR HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION?
Is there really no way to stop the madness? Gov. Mike Beebe's formidable political skills have been all but useless against the Stepford Caucus. You'd think he could at least figure out a way to tell the Republicans, led by Jonathan Barnett, pushing this Republican raid on revenues for highway project that their pilferage will get no support as long as the Republican caucus is attempting to strangle the rest of state government. It's arithmetic. Less is less.
Concrete is worth more than people to this gang. I could rant more about a Republican caucus that won't pay for GED tests so working strivers can get high school diplomas but which wants to cut the cost of a concealed carry permit, but this'll do for now.