It was a good week for ...
MEDICAID PREDICTIONS. The state Department of Human Services put pen to paper and discovered that expanding the Medicaid rolls will, thanks to federal contributions, save the state $372 million by 2021. Still, for political appearances, the Republicans in the legislature will try to keep Arkansas from taking advantage of the expansion.
CHECKING UP ON CORPORATE WELFARE. The state's Economic Development Commission wants state auditors to have the authority to determine whether taxpayer-paid incentives — tax credits, sales tax refunds, etc. — are creating promised jobs.
It was a bad week for ...
THE GAS TAX DRIVE. The Committee for a Fair Severance Tax had to throw in the towel after it was revealed that 70 percent of the signatures turned in to place the initiative on the general election ballot were bad. (Nancy Todd's casino amendment came up short as well.) Among other things, the tax would have helped pay to repair roads damaged by shale exploration companies. Voters don't want to raise sales taxes to pay for road damage either, a Talk Business/Hendrix College poll indicated.
CROPS AND CATTLE. Make that a bad couple of months. Arkansas's drought continues, with 14 counties now listed as being in exceptional drought — the worst classification — and the rest of the state in either extreme or severe drought. Farmers and cattle ranchers are facing economic disaster; the state's secretary of agriculture called the situation "catastrophic."
INTERSTATE TRAFFIC. The $125 million project to build a new exchange at Interstate 630 and 430 means one-lane traffic for the next couple of weeks. The highway department is encouraging motorists to find a detour "if at all possible."
GAME AND FISH COMMISSION. An employee morale survey released last Wednesday gave poor marks to the administration at the agency, with only 35 percent saying their opinions matter, 24 percent saying they'd recommend working there to a friend and 21 percent being optimistic about the future of the agency. There is a perception, the survey found, that hiring and promotion is not merit-based but politically motivated.