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It was a good week truckers

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It was a good week for...

TRUCKERS They should save around $4 million annually from a sales tax cut that the legislature passed last year as part of a quid pro quo arrangement with the truck industry. The legislature passed it to take effect July 1 only if voters approved a diesel tax increase. The truck lobby later refused to support a ballot item because polls said it wouldn't pass and agreed that the tax break should be repealed. But the Arkansas Senate hasn't voted to allow consideration of a measure to repeal in the current fiscal session and doesn't seem likely to. Said Senate President Pro Tem Paul Bookout to Stephens Media, "Let's be realistic. This is an election year and members are filing for re-election. Some people can interpret this issue as a tax cut, and so that gives some concern." At press time, a day after legislative leaders declared the tax repeal dead, House Speaker Robert Moore said he was still working to see the resolution filed.

NEW JOBS Welspun announced that it will invest $100 million in its Little Rock pipe plan and add 200 jobs. You may recall that the delay in approval of the Keystone pipeline, which Welspun is slated to supply, is cited tirelessly by Republicans as costing jobs in Little Rock. Apparently Welspun is doing OK. As we've reported before, 60 part-time workers were laid off temporarily from a short-term job loading pipe as a result of the Keystone decision, but a plant official said they'd eventually have the work to perform regardless.

It was a bad week for...

REP. JON HUBBARD The Republican state representative from Jonesboro sent an e-mail to Health Department director Paul Halverson (and copied all Republican legislators) demanding birth certificates be produced before the state supplies any non-emergency health care. Halverson responded calmly. This would be a burdensome rule many Arkansans would have a hard time fulfilling, he noted. Plus, better health means providing health care, not denying it.

MEDICAID PROJECTIONS The Arkansas Department of Human Services is now predicting a $350-$400 million budget shortfall for Medicaid in fiscal 2014. That's on top of the additional $114 million that would be poured into the 2013 fiscal year beginning July 1. The state would have to come up with about a quarter of that to match federal money. Or cut Medicaid by making it harder to become eligible.

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