by Max Brantley
I can't believe it. Wait. Of course I can believe it. County Judge Buddy Villines is talking — and nobody much seems to be objecting — to increasing the sales tax AGAIN to build a fancy Broadway bridge over the Arkansas River. (He didn't say sales tax in article this morning. He just said taxes. But the sales tax is the only tool local governments have to hammer residents with.)
Oh, sure, it will be one of those "public/private" partnerships. But if experience is any guide, private contributions will be token, at best (see naming rights to Verizon Arena and skyboxes.) The real tab (see sales tax) will be borne by the poorest people at Little Rock when they buy a Big Mac, a pair of jeans or a can of motor oil.
If we're to be gouged, I hope the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce steps up with, oh, say $200,000. It has that amount each year in taxpayer money to throw around. Or maybe Mayor Stodola's economic development slush fund could contribute a few dimes. Or perhaps Mayor Hays could direct a little of the electric rates gouged out of North Little Rock and Sherwood customers away from his projects to this bridge.
Privately funded major public projects just don't happen very often in Little Rock. Walton-backed charter schools are not really an exception — public tax dollars provide most of the money for those. UAMS has had some nice gifts, but without the federal dollars backing patients in the new buildings, they'd have to turn off the lights.
Even Dallas, with an abundance of millionaires, hasn't been able to come up with sufficient money to build three signature Trinity River bridges, though the Hunt family did come up with $12 million for one of them.