If the Republican-majority Senate follows the Republican-majority House in expanding the Obamacare financed expansion of Medicaid today (I think they will), doors open on tax cuts for the well-to-do.
The House yesterday voted:
* MANUFACTURERS TAX BREAK: A sales tax break on gas and electricity eventually to be worth $25 million a year.
* INCOME TAX CUT: A reduction in the top bracket, from 7 to 6.875 percent, plus some adjustments in lower brackets, that will eventually cost $57 million a year. The dollar benefits will go disproportionately to the wealthy. Half the benefits would go to people making more than $155,000 a year.
* CAPITAL GAINS TAX CUT: This is House Speaker Davy Carter's unbelievable sop to the sort of rich people he hopes will finance his gubernatorial campaign. It would grow to be a $30 million a year reduction, maybe more, depending on sales of appreciated assets. This one goes almost entirely to the wealthy. Unbelievably, in the first year, it only goes to the super wealthy on huge profit sales of more than $5 million. A state analysis shows more than half the capital gains tax reductions go to people making more than $250,000 a year. Carter threw in a tiny sop to working people, with a standard deduction increase worth no more than $28 in savings a year. (That first-year benefit will be worth, by way of contrast, almost $250,000 a year on each qualifying sale by a tycoon.) But the Senate yesterday cut the maximum benefit to $14 a year, while keeping the big bonanza for the wealthy.
* END OF SALES TAX ON GROCERIES: This is pie-in-sky, based on hoped-for end of school desegregation payments. It's just window dressing at this point. The real cuts this year are for rich people. (A constiutionally mandated eighth-of-a-cent sales tax would remain regardless if this ever takes effect.)
The haggling at this point, in some ways, is over when the tax cuts take place, what part in the year beginning July 1 and what part later. Gov. Mike Beebe, nominally relevant these days, said he believes the state can manage $90 to $100 million in cuts total, but not until the fiscal year starting July 1, 2014. He said he'd leave which tax cuts are implemented to the legislature. Of course he will. Has he a choice?
Poor folks going to be sucking the hind teat, as the old Arkansas saying goes.
Now the question no Democrat wants to ask with a vote still pending in the Senate, but I will:
What, exactly, did Democrats get for giving Davy Carter 49 of the votes he needed to be speaker and 49 of the votes needed for approving a Republican-preferred version of Obamacare? Tax cuts for the wealthy. Cramdowns of social issue trivia that will cost the state money in lawsuits. A legislative takeover of many functions of the executive. A partisan takeover of voter laws and machinery. Republican bragging rights on Medicaid and a medical safety net poised to be eviscerated if national Republican efforts to kill or cripple Obamacare ultimately succeed. Sure, the Republican majority was going to have its way. But Davy Carter — and the architects of the Obamacare plan that is paying for the tax cuts for the wealthy with the infusion of federal dollars — owe them something more than I can see was received.