by Max Brantley
Amusing to read Twitters from this morning's gathering of Republican legislators in Northwest Arkansas. Consider the source (another Koch payroll lobbyist/GOP cheerleader), but:
*There's defense of the $2.3 billion tax increase for highways. Jobs go where the highways are, the crowd was assured — in the midst of the NWA boomtown that sprung up despite decades of inferior highways.
* There's Rep. Tim Summers, reportedly saying his constituents have been urging him to cut the state budget, but not the part they get.
* Rep. Duncan Baird, to his credit, is still pitching a Walmart rule for legislators — no freebies. Doesn't sound like he got an amen chorus.
* Lots of moaning, including from U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, about shifting Fayetteville to another congressional district. But, as Bill Pritchard's proposals made clear yesterday: Womack can't keep Johnson County as he wants; the 3rd can't keep Boone County, as GOP Godfather J.P. Hammerschmidt wishes, and the 3rd can't keep Sebastian, as Womack and people in Fort Smith want, without giving up something somewhere. If all the Republican demands are met, some radical district shaping will be required.
* Health care and retirement security are "entitlements" — a sneer word to the likes of Womack and Highway Commissioner Dick Trammell. $2 billlion in taxes to build four-lanes of dubious economic worth? That is not an entitlement. That's a necessity. Health care and a little Social Security check. Those are entitlements. Frills. The highway contractors must be served.