by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Democratic Party has shown some welcome signs that it understands the need to match the Republican messaging onslaught. Case in point today was a news conference by legislative leaders on Democrats' agenda for the coming legislative session. The bullet points:
* Keep the Fiscal session within the scope of its purpose — fiscal matters only — as was intended by the people of Arkansas.
* Keep the state budget within our means without raising taxes.
* Aim to keep the session on pace to adjourn on time or early and not waste taxpayer dollars.
* Work in a bipartisan manner to avoid the gridlock and grandstanding of Washington.
* Weigh all matters not only on their fiscal impact to the state and the taxpayer, but also on their economic impact to small business owners and industry throughout the state.
Is that a no-tax pledge? Does that mean there will be no solution for the gaps in fire coverage said to have been caused by layoffs at the Forestry Commission? Does that mean the truckers will get to keep their unearned sales tax exemption on truck and trailer purchases?
Does it mean no legislator will sneak through a special pleader little ol' handout bill? Prefilings already include at least one.
Bottom line: Obey the Constitution (balanced budget/30-day session) and go home without bickering.
The Republicans are messaging, too, of course. As they scream about a loss of firefighting protection, they essentially dare Democrats to pass a tax to cover the expense. They double-dog dare Democrats (unnecessarily, I should add) to roll back the improvident peanut gallery tax cuts passed in the last legislative session. And, of course, they inject fear of Obamacare, not wanting to let a day go by without reminding Arkansas voters of the black foreigner in the White House.
Can the Republicans resist throwing a legislative stink bomb? Like blocking the Blind School budget or similar?
DEMOCRATIC PARTY RELEASE
(LITTLE ROCK) The majority leadership of both chamber of the Arkansas state legislature outlined five guiding principles for the upcoming fiscal session, calling for lawmakers to keep to fiscal matters without raising taxes and keeping the budget within its means.
State Senate majority leader Robert Thompson and state House majority leader Johnnie Roebuck outlined the five principles with the majority Party leadership and members of the General Assembly. The five principles included:
Keep the Fiscal session within the scope of its purpose — fiscal matters only — as was intended by the people of Arkansas.
Keep the state budget within our means without raising taxes.
Aim to keep the session on pace to adjourn on time or early and not waste taxpayer dollars.
Work in a bi-partisan manner to avoid the gridlock and grandstanding of Washington.
Weigh all matters not only on their fiscal impact to the state and the taxpayer, but also on their economic impact to small business owners and industry throughout the state.
“Our state has seen progress. Under the leadership of Governor Beebe and Arkansas Democrats in the legislature, our state announced over 28,000 new jobs, was named fifth in nation for overall education, and maintained a balanced budget while delivering on the largest tax cut in the history of our state,” Sen. Robert Thompson said. “Certainly, our work is not done, but there is a time and a place for everything. Now is the time to ensure our fiscal house remains strong.”
“Arkansas was one of only four states in the country to enter the last fiscal year without a budget shortfall,” Rep. Johnnie Roebuck said. “We must continue that same fiscal health during this fiscal session and keep to the people’s business in a timely manner because good politics will lead to good policy.”
The full fiscal session begins Monday, February 13 with committee meetings.