Once more with feeling: Will the Senate, once again, protect Arkansas from baser instincts?
The issue today is Republican Sen. Jake Files' proposed constitutional amendment to allow cities and counties to set up so-called redevelopment districts with bonding authority.
What local taxpayer wouldn't vote for bonds paid off — not with THEIR money — but with money that rightfully should go to the rest of the state for schools, prisons, nursing home care, State Police and all the rest.
That's right. These districts would capture state sales tax money — NOT local sales tax money; the cities would keep THEIR local sales taxes — and use it to finance private projects. There's no limit in the amendment to how this money can be spent. In other states, these tax-stealing scams have financed Walmarts, I kid you not. You know how hard it is for the Waltons to scratch up capital for another discount store. They need taxpayer money to get it done.
Fort Smith has been fiddling with ways to capture tax money to pump into privately owned property downtown for years. The TIF scam, to steal school tax money, hasn't worked out as hoped. So now they want a direct siphon of state sales tax money into the pockets of private developers. They could build convenience stores, Walmarts, hotels, restaurants, whatever with YOUR tax money.
Only a vote of the Senate stands in the way of this ripoff. State finance officials laid out some of the problems yesterday. A committee with four Republicans out of eight members sent this idea right along. The skinflint Republicans again show their true colors. They want to decrease YOUR essential government services to line THEIR buddies' pockets. It's wrong.
PS — Files very craftily argued for his SJR as saying it "may" benefit blighted areas. Indeed, as with the TIF amendment scam, blighted areas are mentioned. But read the language of the amendment. As with the TIF scam, it's written in such a way as to allow use of the money for any purpose. Eliminating blight is but one of several possible justifications for a tax raid, including "increasing employment."