by Max Brantley
I never really expected Gov. Mike Beebe, who cut his teeth golfing with the lobby in the Senate, to be a supporter of the Sheffield Nelson-backed initiative to raise the pitifully low severance tax on natural gas. So it wasn't too surprising the other day when he said he'd reconsidered some earlier favorable remarks and now was likely to vote against the measure if it makes the ballot. He said he doesn't want to discourage oil exploration in South Arkansas, a developing energy play.
The new exploration is almost entirely for oil, not gas. The severance tax proposal doesn't apply to oil. Nelson pointed that out after a speech in Sherwood yesterday. The governor's office says the governor knew exactly what he was saying. Yes. I'm sure he did. And the boys over at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and at gas company offices nodded their heads and said, "Yep, he's still one of ours."