by Max Brantley
It appears the Joint House-Senate State Agencies committee will have seven proposed constitutional amendments from which to choose a maximum of three to refer to voters. The House today sent five to join two from the Senate for joint consideration.
They are a pretty bad lot. Republican Sen. Jake Files wants to authorize a scam already in use in other states to set up development districts in which private companies can get subsidies by grabbing the state sales tax on their enterprises rather than sending them out for distribution to all state taxpayers. There's no prohibition on using state tax money to subsidize retail stores, a non-addition to a state's gross product. In some states, these so-called STAR bonds have been sought to subsidize Walmarts. It's a lose-lose for taxpayers statewide. I'm still looking to see if this could operate like some scams in Texas where undeveloped areas are established as tax districts and a single voter is moved onto the property to establish residency and vote in the district.
Republican Rep. Jonathan Barnett wants a half-cent sales tax to build freeways to nowhere. This $180 million annual sales tax increase would, in a year, raise five times the savings supposedly generated by the tax-cutting demons of this General Assembly.
The only true cost-cutting and non-special-interest offering comes from Rep. Keith Ingram, who'd abolish two offices that are little more than the proverbial teats on a boar hog — lieutenant governor and land commissioner. Hold your horse before you cry partisan foul. I've been for a reduction in constitutional offices — throw in the treasurer, too — since the days when only Democrats held them.
Republican Rep. Ann Clemmer's amendment to require 35 percent of lottery income to go to scholarships would make playing the lottery so unprofitable that revenue — and scholarships — would drop. It's a lottery killer. That's OK with me, but I'd rather do it straight up.
Wait. Rep. Jim Nickels' idea to return to legislative sessions every two years would save money — and untold aggravation.
Ma and Junior Hutchinson want to mess with the Highway Commission in two proposals.