Saturday, September 03, 2011

Bipartisan Duplicity On Fuel Taxes and Debt

Arkansans Have Paid Off Some State Debt, So the Political Class Has Banded Together to Talk Us into Loading More Unto Our Backs

The Establishment media in this state and the heads of both establishment political parties have again joined forces in a stirring display of bipartisanship (which is a very different thing than nonpartisanship) in order that government of the bankers, by the bankers, and for the bankers shall not perish from Arkansas' earth!

I refer to their joint efforts to load another round of debt onto the backs of Arkansas taxpayers- even when we could pay-as-we-go. Paying as we go however, leaves little in the way of bond sales commissions for the financial interests of this state. Plus, politicians have so much more fun spending money and giving away stuff when someone else "down the road" has to pay for it. Thus Governor Mike Beebe has called for a November Special election to ask the voters to take on more debt.

Citizens have had to endure extremely one-sided coverage of the issue of what we want to do about our GARVEE highway bond program, and a fuel tax that helped pay for it. The news reports mention that the bond issue passed with an overwhelming majority in 1999. They don't mention that the increase in diesel and motor fuel taxes, which was also a part of paying for this program, was passed by the ledge without a vote of the people.

Nor do they mention that a very similar proposal was soundly defeated just a year before by a wide margin. The difference was that Jim Guy Tucker, who was pushing the program, had lost the confidence of the state's voters. In 1999 people trusted Mike Huckabee. In the initial goodwill and false belief that he was a fiscal conservative, people trusted him when he said that we should vote for a program that was very similar to the one Tucker was advocating. In that wave of good feeling toward Huckabee, and with a constant media drumbeat in favor of the debt, the people switched their vote.

GARVEE bonds are issued under a federal program which basically allows even bond fees and interest to be repaid out of a state's stream of federal highway money. Of course, each dollar spent for fees and interest is one less dollar for road maintenance. The state's federal highway dollars were pledged as collateral for the loan, but, should those funds fail to materialize then the state's taxpayers would be on the hook to repay the bonds. Additional sources of revenue were also tapped. The state raised taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. While the increase on gasoline was for only three years, the increased tax on diesel fuel- with money earmarked to repay the bonds, was not slated to expire with the bonds.

Now the bonds are starting to be paid off. The purpose for which the tax was levied is ending, but they want to make the tax increase permanent by using it to fund a new round of borrowing. They could repeal the tax increase with a simple vote of the legislature. They could use the money for routine road maintenance on a PAYGO basis. Instead, they want to use it as collateral to borrow more money. Again, banksters don't get well when governments operate on a PAYGO basis. They want us to use debt. And our state leaders and media are very obliging.

Another very important point: If the FEDS don't come through, Arkansas taxpayers would be on the hook for the debt. In 1999 we were pretty confident that the Federal Government Highway money that we used as primary collateral on this borrowing was going to be there even 10-15 years down the road. Is there anyone out there today so insanely stupid as to have the same high degree of confidence that the Feds will keep the money flowing? Well, yes there is. The Chairmen of both the Democratic and Republican Parties seem to be that insanely stupid. Or at least they know where their bread is buttered.

(Editors note: I am not now sure of the number of interstate highway miles that have been added since 1999)

And speaking of hack journalism, how about that article that cites four or five sources that are in favor of the new debt and not one voice opposed to it? How is that for journalistic integrity? This bit in the Stuttgart paper had the same MO, but also had locals hinting that some of the goodies might come their way if they passed it. "Government is that great fiction by which everone attempts to live off of everyone else" - Freddy Bastiat

For a 20 minute audio which addresses this issue in more detail, click here.


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