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OPINION: Maps, talk of new districts hide issue of tax cuts

by Maylon Rice | September 29, 2021 at 5:24 a.m.

Setting the legislative table for the upcoming special session on cutting the income tax rates for wealthy Arkansans has never been so easy.

Those to the far-right who would do away with state income taxes (see both female gubernatorial candidates for GOP in 2022) are too preoccupied with slicing up the state -- mostly the four Congressional Districts -- to notice a fire is smoldering in the back of the meeting room.

And the substantive talk and debate about cutting the top tier of state income taxes go silent.

The redrawing of legislative and congressional maps is loudly roaring all over the state.

There is such intense joy in messing with other politicians' territory -- i.e., the Arkansas Congressional Delegation -- that local state senators and state representatives simply cannot control themselves.

Their joy in doing so is like rabid Razorback fans after a terrific win -- say over the Texas Longhorns of late -- dissecting the many ways Texas lost to Arkansas.

It is an infinitesimal procedure that lasts and lasts and lasts to the Hog faithful, long after the stadium has been emptied and those much-cussed, much-hated Longhorns have retreated back to Austin.

There are maps being drawn by some in the state House and state Senate who are so far removed from any real leadership that it is indeed laughable. This same state representative (and a few more like him) have been so silent, while some of these crazy and unconstitutional laws against the powers of the governor, mask mandates and even continuation of unemployment benefits to be augmented by the federal government go lacking a decent concern.

Here are these three-, four-, or even five-term House members who, in the last legislative session, barely got out of their chairs suddenly wildly waving various color-coded maps seeking to split up Pulaski County into as many geographic districts as possible.

All that is missing is the real reason to divide up Pulaski County -- to show those liberals in Little Rock who are really in charge -- the Arkansas legislators, those gypsies who swoop down to Little Rock to serve the public of Arkansas.

But back to the tax cuts.

So silent are the movements on trimming the tax cuts. It is as I have said before, a clear minority of all the 135 members -- down to five or six -- who even understand the ramifications of the tax cut.

Oh, sure, all 135 of the solons can understand trimming a top tax rate of 5.9% down to 5.5%, and it is easy to feel those who make in excess of a quarter of a million dollars a year in Arkansas NEED (my emphasis) a tax break.

Or do they?

Why would a successful Arkansan, making 10 to 12 times the earnings of an average Arkansan, go crying to the Legislature for a tax break?

Because they hold the checkbook and influence over who runs for everything from dog catcher to state Senator back home. Go ahead and include the other Constitutional officers in this mix and most of the elected judiciary as well.

If you don't believe that every politician running in Arkansas does not know who these millionaires and wanna-be-millionaires are?

Well, think again.

Most politicians will grovel harder for a check from a big name -- i.e., earner in this home district -- than a hundred-dollar bill from 100 other voters. Why? Well, the politician can say it looks better on a campaign report that the upper class -- i.e., big spenders and influential people -- be included than absent.

So, what about the tax cut? Have any groups for the tax cut been polling the state legislature? Not yet, many of the solons report.

Well, who will be calling to "test the waters" to see if the tax cut will pass?

Probably the governor's staff, who seldom does but has in the past called solons to ask: "Where are you on the tax cuts?"

Or, possibly the GOP and Democratic Party whips might be cold calling for support of the party's position.

I could ask Mr. and Mrs. Tax Payer this: Are you ready for a tax cut for those rich folks in Arkansas?

Wonder what that answer might be?

-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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