by Max Brantley
Credit where due. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was a gold mine of important enterprise reporting today. You can go to www.nwanews.com to read the articles - but you have to copy and paste the url; D-G redirects hyperlinks from this site to its pay site, A reader has provided specific copy-and-paste links in the comments.
SEVERANCE TAX: Seth Blomeley explained in industry-irrefutable detail what everyone has known all along -- a natural gas severance tax increase in Arkansas would not lead to a rise in gas bills. It would just be a very tiny part of the factors that contribute to the global gas market and not change it a wit. Dishonest Republicans like Asa Hutchinson and Rep. Aaron Burkes who have suggested otherwise are full of gas.
FOOTBALL FOLLIES: C.S. Murphy studied football coach pay statewide. The outlines of this were already well known, but seeing the epic list of disproportionate sums paid to men (all men) who coach high school football and only coach football (and maybe teach a little P.E.) is sobering. The top five coaches hail from anti-tax Republican Northwest Arkansas, with Rogers and Bentonville vying for the top with pay near $100,000. Is a football coach worth $40,000 a year more than an AP physics instructor? The market, in which there are many football coaches but only a tiny number of physics instructors, would suggest not. But the market has to factor in bread and circus for the Arkansas populace. No contest.
LEGISLATIVE EXPENSES: Michael Wickline did the annual tally of expense payments to Arkanas legislators on top of salary. He found the top five, led by the grifting Sen. Jack Critcher (whose wife hopes to become substitute driver of the term-limited Critcher's gravy train), nailed down more than $50,000 in "expense" payments on top of salary. It's shocking stuff. Critcher claimed $17,000 for a single conference. Legislators took grand western road trips and billed the state at 48 cents a mile for tours of the west, running tabs for road trips with the spouse over $4,000 in one case. Here's a very simple idea: Other branches of state government have a rule that mileage reimbursement is limited to the cost of published air fare. No more taxpayer-funded trips to Wyoming for the Jeffresses and Cornwells of the world.
And legislators wonder -- as they cry in their free beers with lobbyists at Little Rock and faraway watering holes -- why they are held in such low esteem.