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A little kindness, please

by and

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Some say the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation has no heart. We’re not prepared to concede the point.

No, we continue to hope that the Bureau will relent, abandon its previously unyielding opposition, and allow the Arkansas legislature to enact a meaningful animal-cruelty law. Such bills have failed in previous sessions because the Farm Bureau resisted, fearful that a Bureau member might be inconvenienced. (In the Bureau’s version, adoption of an Arkansas animal-cruelty law similar to what most states already have would mean poultry-loving, people-hating sheriffs sending farmers off to confinement, with duck and deer hunters close behind. This is not a likely scenario.)

This week, the media reported on a man who put a live rat terrier in an oven and cooked it at 400 degrees. Because this occurred in Savannah, Ga., where they have reasonable animal-cruelty laws, the offender went to prison. In Arkansas, where animal cruelty is treated only as a misdemeanor, not a felony, he might have gotten a day or two of community service at the local pool hall.

This is terribly wrong, and somewhere inside, we think, the Farm Bureau knows it. What better time than the season of peace and good will for the Bureau to advise legislators they’re free to require some minimal security for the state’s dogs, cats, horses and other animals that are routinely tortured and killed. The animals will gain protection; the people will gain self-respect and peace of mind.

Tax reform

Gov.-elect Mike Beebe is correct in saying that the state sales tax on groceries should be repealed only in phases, though pundits and politicians who’ve previously shown little concern for the working poor now bellow for immediate repeal. Immediate repeal of the tax, with no provision for replacing the lost revenue, would surely mean cutbacks in programs that benefit the poor, such as Medicaid.

Repeal of the sales tax on groceries is not even the best way to provide tax relief to the poor, and to make Arkansas’s unfair tax structure a bit fairer. A state earned income tax credit, similar to the federal EITC, would give tax refunds and, in some cases, subsidies to the working poor. Because an EITC is targeted at the poor, it would make the state tax system more progressive. Grocery tax repeal would benefit rich as well as poor; the system would be even more regressive. Repeal would cost more than an EITC too. Another meritorious measure would be to raise the threshold for payment of the state income tax. Arkansas is one of a handful of states that impose the income tax on a family of four below the poverty line. It’s a distinction we should be rid of.

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