by Max Brantley
The Arkanas House Republican Caucus rolled out its "SIMPLE" plan to fix Arkansas today.
You can read all the details here, but I've explained them before. And it's simple, for sure. Simply awful.
The Republicans are right that our marginal income tax rate is high compared with many other states, particularly those without income tax such as Texas. And it needs to be restructured so that the top rate doesn't start on lower-income taxpayers. But what the Republicans won't tell you is that exemplars like Texas make up the difference with much higher property taxes, higher corporate taxes and higher severance taxes. The last have produced a bonanza for Texas universities without driving oil and gas production away.
Anyway, here's the plan, in fewer, truer words
S, for spending reform, means imposing artificial caps on state spending increases no matter how great the need that might be apparent.
I, for income tax reform, means a dramatic reduction in income tax rates. If it follows the Kansas Republican model, it will mean tax increases for poor and middle class people, many of them now exempt, and windfall tax breaks for rich people.
M, for Medicaid sustainability, means dramatic reductions in government spending on Medicaid. No way around the bottom line here. This means dramatic reduction in coverage for the poor and elderly sick.
P, for "protecting Arkansas's future," means imposing their social agenda on us. 1) Take away women's right to an abortion; 2) Make it harder for the poor and minorities to vote; 3) drug-testing the unemployed and welfare recipients, but NOT, you may be sure, corporate welfare recipients or state public officials. I'm surprised guns (pro) and gays (anti) and God (pro if your God happens to be the evangelical Christian version) aren't explicitly mentioned, but fear not, they're part of the agenda, too.
L, for legal and regulatory reform, means the end of government protection against pollution, financial predators and all the rest, plus a roadblock to lawsuits against those who damage people. (Sorry, I left this one out origianlly.)
E, for educational excellence, means charter schools and vouchers and a return of a dual education system, separate but unequal.
Spokesperson Candace Martin of the Democratic Party of Arkansas released the following statement today in response to the state House Republican caucus news conference:
"It seems Republicans in the state legislature are more interested in their own political ideology rather than the needs of Arkansans. Republicans talk a lot about government spending, but they should get their own party leaders in line like Secretary Martin who has carelessly spent tens of thousands of tax dollars.
Arkansas Democrats laid out their priorities to continue fiscal responsibility before the last legislative session, and now Republicans are arriving at the game a day late and a dollar short.
While state House Republicans are in lock-step with each other, Arkansas Democrats are out there working for the people of Arkansas to create jobs and build a world-class K-12 education so every child can succeed. Arkansas Democrats are focused on continuing to run government efficiently by balancing our state budget responsibly and holding down taxes, like the grocery tax cut, saving Arkansas families over $245 million a year. Under the leadership of Democratic legislators and a Democratic Governor, more than 28,000 new jobs have been announced in Arkansas, and our public education is now ranked 5th in the nation."