Category Archives: Legislature

To give or not to give to the guy on the street

This is the part of the calendar – Christmas and the new year’s start – when people try to become better versions of themselves. So what does the better version of yourself do when you pass a person on the street holding a “Hungry and homeless” sign?

There’s not always an easy answer. Begging should not be encouraged. Some panhandlers could find gainful employment if they tried, and some will spend your spare change on booze or drugs. But what about those who wouldn’t? To dismiss every needy person as undeserving of help – that’s a moral shortcut. Sometimes people are down on their luck, or they’re mentally unhealthy, or, for whatever reason, they are suffering from their mistakes more than we are for ours. Many homeless people are veterans.

You can’t know who is whom when waiting at a traffic light. Do you withhold from five who need your help to avoid giving to five you shouldn’t help? OK, what if the ratio is 3:7? Is our better version a cheerful giver, or too smart to be suckered? And didn’t Jesus say something about “the least of these”? Continue reading To give or not to give to the guy on the street

The end of GIF spending in Arkansas? Probably not

GIFBy Steve Brawner

Spending other people’s money can be pretty easy, especially if you tell yourself you have the authority and it’s for a good cause. In other words, we probably haven’t seen the last of the Legislature’s spending on local projects.

Here’s the back story. On Oct. 6, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that legislators can’t direct state surplus dollars to so-called General Improvement Fund (GIF) projects such as rural fire departments and libraries.

The ruling was the latest curve in a long legal road that began with a 2005 lawsuit by former legislator Mike Wilson. After the Supreme Court twice ruled in 2006 and 2007 against GIF funding, legislators instead sent the money to eight nonprofit regional planning districts that would decide how it was spent.

Only that’s not really what happened. As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has detailed, the planning districts often rubber-stamped the wishes of individual legislators. The Democrat-Gazette reported that taxpayers have spent more than $50 million on these projects just since 2013.

So Wilson sued again. This time, the Supreme Court ruled the process ran afoul of the state Constitution’s requirement that appropriations must be “distinctly stated.”  Continue reading The end of GIF spending in Arkansas? Probably not

Tax reform storms

tax, taxes, debt, deficitsBy Steve Brawner

This column was going to argue that Hurricane Harvey federal recovery aid should be funded through spending cuts elsewhere or through a special tax rather than increased deficit spending. Then a Houston-based Facebook friend pleaded for a cease-fire to all Harvey-related political talk, particularly by those of us sitting high and dry.

Point taken. Harvey is the only story that matters right now, but this week that story is about rescue, relief and resilience.

So we’ll fill this space on the opinion page with something else until a discussion about how to fund the recovery is more appropriate.

President Trump’s tax speech

President Trump Wednesday kicked off his legislative effort to reform the nation’s tax laws. In a speech at Springfield, Missouri, he outlined his goals broadly: a simpler, more competitive tax code; lower taxes for businesses and the middle class; and bringing corporate profits back from overseas.

Republicans know they must pass something big, considering voters have given them control over everything. When Democrats were similarly situated in 2009-10, they passed Obamacare. But Republicans have already whiffed on that.

Continue reading Tax reform storms