by Max Brantley
I hope to check in later as joint House-Senate committees discuss the increasingly controversial plan to provide state subsidies for a new steel mill in Mississippi County. Fierce opposition from an existing steel mill and some growing Republican resistance to the subsidies make this one hard to predict.
* LET US PRAY: The House has passed a resolution endorsing school prayer. Those constitutional oaths the legislators take? Who cares? Let's establish some religion in our schools. OUR kind of religion, of course.
*UPDATE: STEEL RAIL BLUES: The Twittersphere indicates a somewhat negative cast to the consultants' reports on the idea to invest $125 million or so in the Big River Steel mill. Credit where due to the Koch Bros.' Americans for Prosperity chapter in Arkansas, which is putting out a drumbeat of negative messages about the "risky" investment. Risky? With the Koch Bros. as majority equity players? Every corporate welfare proposal should get this kind of scrutiny. The vociferous opposition from competitor Nucor Steel, already in business in Mississippi County, is a key factor. But all corporate welfare is, by nature, discriminatory against existing businesses that pay their own way. Do the jobs and related business repay the state, plus profit, on the subsidy? It's apparently something of a close call here, and this is for hundreds of very high-paying jobs. Remember this the next time the state touts the wisdom of giveaways to a low-wage factory somewhere else.
UPDATE II: The discussions have extended beyond 5 p.m. Again, you can't help but cheer such close examination of the numbers on corporate welfare. THIS ONCE. A signifcant tax break for purchase of recycling equipment seems to be a significant cost item that makes it hard for evaluators to predict a sure net dollar gain for the state on the deal. But it's worth remembering that there are are other general benefits to the state beyond direct revenue generated by Big River Steel in return for its subsidy.