Forget all that pie in the sky about a legislative resolution of a gas severance tax increase.
Gov. Mike Beebe dropped by political filing activities today, which made him handy for reporters to ask about progress on his talks with gas companies on a sufficient tax on the gas they're pumping out of Arkansas ground. He indicated that there's not likely to be a special session because an agreement seems out of reach. It's unclear if this is on account of intractable gas companies -- Southwestern Energy would be the lead impediment -- or intractable legislators. Since it only takes nine senators to beat a tax increase -- eight Republicans and Death Star Bob Johnson -- a legislative deal was always a long-shot without the whole-hearted urging of the gas companies on their subsidiaries, such as Johnson.
Beebe said he's now looking at the possibility of an initiated act. Former gas executive Sheffield Nelson also has been working toward a ballot intitiative of his own. Competing taxes? A meeting of the minds? We'll see. Beebe wants all the money to go to highways. Nelson would like to guarantee some for colleges. We just want to see gas companies pay in Arkansas what they pay in other states, to the immense benefit of those states.
Beebe had sniffed at doubting legislators last week that he knew more than they did when they said a workout was unlikely. Beebe's spokesman says they thought a deal was close, but negotiations broke down Friday and so attention had turned to an initiative.