During a recent Friday evening event in Northwest Arkansas, a Republican legislator from the area walked up to another Republican legislator. This fella from Northwest Arkansas looked at me-the-media-hack and then with a big smile turned back to the other legislator.
“They don’t know what’s about to hit them,” he told his friend from south of Fort Smith, and then looked back at me with a just-won-the-lottery grin and a straightening of his suit coat.
Am uncertain as to if Mr. Smiley Legislator was referring to us dumbasses in the media, or you dumbasses in the electorate. Or both. The uncertainty of who is unaware of the oncoming hit was not troubling.
It’s not the arrogance or the quasi-lustful we’re-gonna-show-them attitude from Mr. Smiley Legislator that was troublesome. It’s that, indeed, we Arkansans don’t know what’s about to hit us.
To be sure, we have a general idea what is coming, but have no idea how or where or when or why it will hit. Or how painful or painless.
What is coming is that Nov. 6 is likely to deliver to Arkansas Republicans the keys to the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas Senate. They will be in control of one or both houses of the Arkansas Legislature for the first time in about 140 years.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because we’re not confident the Democrats will handle well their loss of power, and are not confident the Republicans will handle well their newfound power.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because Republicans have brought into this election cycle a lot of Washington D.C.-style talking points about cutting taxes, and cutting budgets and pursuing smaller government. As a Libertarian crank in full favor of all three of those, I’m not sure what is about to hit us because the talking points are delivered sans explanation beyond the vague.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because in Arkansas we depend on limited sources (non-federal) for the bulk of state revenue. For example, total general revenue in fiscal year 2012 was $5.924 billion, with individual income tax collections accounting for almost 49%, sales and use tax collections pulling in 36.8%, and corporate income taxes generating 7.3%. That means a $5.924 billion revenue stream comes from three primary sources, with roughly $415 million coming from various ancillary sources.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because roughly 90% of Arkansas’ budget is dedicated to funding education (K-12 and higher education), prisons and health and human services.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because Republican leaders have suggested they may “starve the beast” of state government through deep tax cuts. The loss of revenue from the cuts would then require large reductions in a state government that already struggles to fund education, road improvements and other basic necessities of a society able to adequately foster economic growth.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because Republican leaders who say government should be run like a business, would likely have to file for bankruptcy if they altered revenue and/or expenses in the private-sector with a SIMPLE “starve the beast” plan.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because some of the Republican leaders who bemoan government-subsidized healthcare are 100% beneficiaries of government-subsidized healthcare not available to us dumbassses in the media/electorate.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because three Republican legislators — and that could be the margin of House control come January 2013 — have said slavery was a “blessing in disguise,” all Muslims should be deported, that if slavery were really bad Jesus would have condemned it, and that Abraham Lincoln was a “neurotic Northern war criminal.”
We don’t know what is about to hit us because responsible tax reform should be based on Arkansas’ needs rather than clever think-tank one-liners funded by out-of-state groups.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because some Republicans who pledge to not raise taxes previously supported legislation seeking voter action on a half-cent sales tax increase that would fund $1.8 billion in Arkansas road improvements.
We don’t know what is about to hit us because Gov. Mike Beebe — a Democrat — has cut taxes in Arkansas more than any other Governor. A majority of Republicans who in any way compromised with Beebe or Democrats to achieve this historic tax-cutting record were demonized and lost primary elections to Republicans who promised to not raise taxes and to not compromise with Democrats.
The “what is about to hit us” dilemma was on my mind at 6:30 p.m. when departing the event. Traffic was flowing well on U.S. 412 through Springdale, but when turning south to travel on Interstate 540, the traffic was stalled. Bumper to bumper. Frustrating. Very little progress.
It was certainly not the type of gridlock with which I was expecting to be hit.