Gov. Asa Hutchinson
STUDIOUS: Gov. Hutchinson now has five groups studing various public policy issues.
has formed yet another task force to study yet another large issue that was punted in his first legislative session.
This one is on highway funding.
Contractors are hungry to get more work. Federal and state money is dwindling.
Excuse me. This is actually a "working group." The distinction between this and a task force I'll leave to the governor.
City Wire notes that
The working group’s purpose is to involve the public in determining highway financing options. According to the order, the working group will make recommendations by Dec. 15.
This one's simple. You could build fewer miles of state highway, but that's not going to happen. So that leaves you with:
1) Raise taxes.
2) Steal taxes currently devoted to other uses to repair and build roads for interstate trucks and oil drilling rigs to tear up.
Republicans don't raise taxes, so ...... Maybe if we pray hard enough the roads will get better. It works in football games, doesn't it?
Add highway funding to task forces on:
1) computer education
. It shouldn't cost a cent to require meaningful computer instruction for every high school student and the teachers qualified to deliver it. Visit the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts to get a clue on what it takes.
2) Common Core
. We can implement this national curriculum framework. And the testing most think is necessary to validate it. Or we could spend a few bazillion coming up with a uniquely Arkansas alternative education strategy. Something akin to the work that has historically put the state in the forefront of U.S. education advancement. Emphasis: Arkansas exceptionalism, God, guns.
3) Criminal justice reform.
Another freebie. Instead of building prisons, ship prisoners to Texas. We hire more parole officers; improve community-based re-entry services, and rehabilitate criminals. What? You say this costs money, too? We COULD decriminalize drugs, reducing the criminal imperative to steal to support bad habits. But marijuana is a gateway drug to whiskey and we can't allow that.
. Sorry, private option Medicaid expansion
. We can keep $1 billion from the feds, thus insuring an additional quarter of a million people and shoring up the entire state budget. Or we can give it up. Or we can "rebrand it" and kick poor people in the butt enough to make everyone else like Obamacare after all.
2017 is going to be quite a session with the work of all these task forces to consider. Unless they turn up so many vexing questions that a few more task forces are required.
Snark aside: None of these vital issues can be sustained at current levels and improved without the same, or more likely, increased public support. Last session's tax cuts added a complicating dimension. The hunger from the Republican majority for still more tax cutting is also a complication, particularly against the desire to kill Obamacare. At some point, the governor must stop pretending all these can be accomplished without cost.