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Flat tax group take ballot title to Arkansas Supreme Court

Brandon Woodrome is taking himself to court.

OK, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Woodrome is director of the Arkansas Progressive Group. The group seeks to repeal all state taxes and enact a flat rate sales tax effective July 1, 2012. It took the group two tries to get Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to approve the ballot title. On Wednesday, according to Woodrome, the Secretary of State’s office issued a statement saying the ballot title was clear and complete.

Woodrome, a housing developer in Fort Smith and unsuccessful candidate in the 2008 Republican primary for the District 64 Arkansas House seat, and Jett Harris, also a Fort Smith-based housing developer, are the only listed members of the Arkansas Progressive Group.

The “AR OneTax” would not cut government revenue, but would merely shift all tax collections to an easily identified tax structure and would remove the “thousands of hidden taxes Arkansans pay each day but don’t know about,” Woodrome explained in an October 2009 interview.

Part of that tax shift would include reversing recent cuts to the sales tax on grocery items. Gov. Mike Beebe has made ground on making good on a promise to reduce the state’s 6% tax on essential food items. The tax has been reduced from 6% to 2% during the previous two legislative sessions.

Critics of the proposal sat it would create a regressive tax structure harmful to lower income families and that it would create high a sales tax rate that would harm border city economies.

Woodrome told The City Wire on Wednesday (Feb. 24) that the group wanted to establish “legal sufficiency” of the ballot effort now instead of facing a lawsuit on the issue a few weeks or days before the November election.

McDaniel cautioned in his second opinion that a legal challenge to the OneTax proposal was likely. The AG noted: “I believe a cautionary note is warranted, however, due to the significance of the subject matter undertaken (i.e., taxation) and the complexity and far-reaching effects of this amendment. You should be aware that according to my experience there is a direct correlation between complexity of initiated constitutional amendments and their susceptibility to a successful ballot title challenge. Any ambiguity in the text of a measure could lead to a successful challenge.”

Later this week Little Rock attorney Chris Stewart will file on behalf of the Arkansas Progressive Group a legal sufficiency challenge with the Arkansas Supreme Court. Woodrome says the court will be asked to give a legal ruling on the state and federal constitutionality of the ballot language.

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Woodrome said the group didn’t want to spend money collecting signatures and marketing just to see it swiped off the ballot at the last minute because of a legal technicality.

APG has until July 2 to deliver 77,468 valid voter signatures from a minimum of 15 different counties to the Secretary of State. Woodrome said the group has 11 county coordinators who are recruiting volunteers to gather signatures. While most of the counties are in the 3rd Congressional District, Woodrome said one coordinator is working in Mississippi County in eastern Arkansas.

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