By 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
Host Steve Barnes hosts AETN’s Arkansas Week with KUAR’s Sarah Whites-Koditschek, Talk Business & Politics’ Wes Brown, and Independent Arkansas’ Steve Brawner. Topics include:
- The Supreme Court’s ruling on state General Improvement Funds
- Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s lawsuit over the Supreme Court removing him from death penalty cases
- The Arkansas economy
- Las Vegas.
This week’s Arkansas Week on AETN: Wes Brown with Talk Business & Politics, Jacob Kaufman with KUAR, and Steve Brawner join host Steve Barnes to discuss health care, Arkansas’ low unemployment rate, the Alabama Senate race, and the Little Rock mayoral race.
By Steve Brawner
Who wants higher taxes? In at least 13 Arkansas communities, the answer Sept. 19 was, “We’ll pay them, for our local schools.”
That’s how many school districts voted to increase property taxes during the annual school elections. Voters chose to erase all or much of the tax cuts provided by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislature during the past two legislative sessions. Meanwhile, voters in eight districts said no to millage increases.
The increases occurred in communities across the state, from Berryville in the state’s northwest corner to Dumas in southeastern Arkansas. The largest increase was 8.4 mills at the Cutter Morning Star district around Hot Springs for a new high school and arena. Fifty-nine percent of voters approved raising their taxes by $168 a year on a $100,000 home. In DeQueen, 61 percent said yes to a 4.9-mill increase to replace the crowded high school. The 50-year-old building was designed for 60-80 students per grade; they’ve since grown to about 200. The district, which is 63 percent Hispanic, had the state’s lowest millage rate before the vote. Continue reading Raise taxes? Yes, say some voters – for schools