by Max Brantley
The final tally indicates Jefferson County has approved a 3-8th-of-a-cent sales tax to create a fund to hand out tax money to lure private business to the depressed county.
You know my song and dance: These kind of corporate welfare schemes — giving tax money to prop up private business — isn't free enterprise and it's invariably decisive mostly in landing marginal enterprises. Public money is better invested in local people — education, civic amenities, quality of life. But "economic development" remain magic words in Arkansas. Too bad they don't demand the accountability expected of, say, public schools.
Speaking of accountability, the Arkansas Community Organization called for it in commenting on the outcome of the election:
Maxine Nelson, chair of the West Side Community Organization in Pine Bluff, released the following statement in response to the sales tax election results:
“There are many needed projects in the city tax proposal that was approved by voters yesterday. The community now needs to come together to make sure the money is spent wisely and that the projects have genuine citizen input. We also urge the City Council to repeal or sunset the recent franchise tax increase since city government will soon receive operating revenue from the new sales tax.
“We will continue to work to make sure the funds from the county tax are used to promote living wage jobs and jobs for Jefferson County residents. We believe that companies receiving our tax dollars should abide by basic standards that guarantee a family supporting wage and good benefits. We urge the Quorum Court to act on these issues as soon as possible.”