Thursday, February 17, 2011

Road to Ruin: Republican Calls for Tax Increase Vote for Highways

Rep. Johnathan Barnett (Siloam Springs), has called for a vote to get a new highway tax. The money would actually be used to pay off highway bonds, freeing up fuel tax dollars that are allocated to bond repayment to be used for new spending.

Barnett was on the Highway Commission under Gov. Mike Huckabee, so Highways are near and dear to his heart. Perhaps so dear that he has become tone deaf to the actual mood of his constituents. Tolbert has panned the proposal. Barnett and company may make the argument that they are not supporting a tax increase, but only giving people a chance to vote on a tax increase. I have a long memory my friends, so let me remind you that when we vote down a tax increase that the big boys favor, we often get asked to choose again until we make the choice that's right for them.

We also got to "choose again" in 2005, when we voted down (in a special election two weeks before Christmas) the original plan that Barnett's proposal is attempting get us out of. That time it had a provision that would let them keep us in debt without a vote. We voted it down and they came right back with one that was a one-time event. With unrelenting establishment media support, and support of both Asa Hutchinson and Mike Beebe, the bond issue passed. It borrowed against our state road tax stream for 25 years in the future in order to get a big pile of money in 05.

Well, the pols have blown through that wad, and our hands are tied for the next 20 years because much of our fuel tax money is committed to repaying the bonds. That's why Barnett wants a tax increase to pay them off. Friends, we tried to warn you. Here is Sen. Jim Holt (who this blog supported) about the highway bond ussue back then, "If we don’t commit those income streams to bond repayment, then we will have them available to improve roads on a pay-as-you-go basis.

If we take on this debt, our ability to deal with future unanticipated needs would be hampered, because the money due us for many years out would already be committed to re-paying the bonds.
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Guess what folks, he is exactly right. And since I was his policy adviser at the time, I guess that means I was exactly right too. Here is what I said earlier when Huckabee originally pulled the same trick with our stream of federal road money.

"The Governor wants all that money to be spent by his own administration, tying the hands of any future ones. He had better spend wisely, correctly anticipating what highway improvements will be best for your twelve year old when they are in their thirties. They will be almost forty before they get a chance to spend any federal highway money on what they think the road priorities should be, because the Governor has spent it all for them now.

The current bunch we have in Little Rock, Democrats and Republicans alike, have never met a 25 year income stream that they did not want to spend in four years or less. They did it with the Tobacco settlement money, and they have done it again with our future Federal Highway dollars.
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The mess we are now in with our highways was completely forseeable, and entirely predictable- as proven by the fact that both Holt and I predicted it. Why trust the same people who got you into a mess to lead you out of it? Why listen to the people whose error led you into the mess? Doesn't it make more sense to start listening to the people who saw it coming and tried to warn you? Just asking.

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