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The Friday Wire: Putrid politics and Whirlpool’s marbles

The upcoming nasty politics of the private option, the Fianna Hills Country Club project, and a governor’s disdain for Whirlpool’s marbles movement are part of the Feb. 7 Friday Wire for the Fort Smith region.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
Get ready to rumble
Consider yourself warned all you who have found some measure of relief that Arkansas politics have not yet devolved to the putrid depths of chaos stirred feverishly by the shallow and sophomoric fecal flingers who have slimed their way into leadership positions in Washington D.C.

Your warning comes with two words: “Private option.”

It seems that in 2013 the Arkansas Legislature passed a plan – the private option – that all but completely altered how Obamacare would be administered in Arkansas with respect to Medicaid funding. There is no need to detail the particulars, because all one needs to know is that this plan had, at some point, a connection to Obamacare.

Arkansas’ upcoming political filing period, 2014 fiscal session and May 2014 primary will be dominated by who is and who is not for funding of the private option plan. There will be a side who suggests that anyone supporting private option probably helped Obama pick out the pens he used to sign Obamacare into law. There will be a side who suggests that any questions related to funding of private option or tweaking the private option plan will be akin to pulling the plug on grandma and personally torching to the ground the rural hospital near you.

The greasy spot in the middle of the nuclear political battlefield will be what remains of the shrinking number of Arkansas elected officials who seek reasoned alternatives outside limitations of line-in-the-sand politics.

“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs ... “

ICYMI
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...
Moving forward on the Fianna Hills Country Club project
Plans to drastically alter the appearance and business model of the Fianna Hills Country Club are continuing to move forward, with plans for a $20 million investment in the property.

Local tax revenue trend
Sales tax collection for the city of Fort Smith were down 0.69% for the 2013 reporting year, ending two years of collection gains and coming in 1.16% below budget estimates. However, the year ended on a positive note with the December report showing gains in city collections and the city’s portion of the countywide 1% sales tax.

Hostile takeover ‘standstill’
The hostile takeover effort against Van Buren-based USA Truck by Knight Transportation is over. At least for now. The two trucking companies announced Tuesday (Feb. 4) the settlement of litigation filed Oct. 10, 2013, by USA Truck against Knight.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
• $3.482 billion: Year-to-date (July 2013-Jan. 2013) gross tax revenue collected by the state of Arkansas, 2.1% above the same period in the previous fiscal year.

• $574.5 million: Estimated reduction in state revenue that would happen under a proposal by Mike Ross to change Arkansas’ income tax code. Ross, a Democrat, is running for election as Arkansas Governor, and will likely face GOP candidate Asa Hutchinson in the November general election.

• $1.7 billion: Estimated hit to the U.S. air travel industry in January as a result of winter storms, with an economic impact that could reach $5 billion.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
The long-term joblessness problem
In 28 states, a third or more of the unemployed have been without a job for six months or longer, leaving them with no unemployment insurance safety net following the expiration of extended benefits in December.

Pryor breaks with Obama on minimum wage
President Barack Obama held two meetings this week plotting strategy to maintain the Senate Democratic majority, while also pitching an issue that could put a vulnerable incumbent at risk: a minimum wage increase. Senator Mark Pryor, whose home state of Arkansas is headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), says he will oppose raising the minimum wage.

Signing with The Tide
Signing day came and went without Alabama ever being threatened to fall from its place atop the college football recruiting pecking order. Coach Nick Saban and his staff in Tuscaloosa received national letters of intent from 19 players on Wednesday, not including eight early enrollees who arrived on campus in January. The Crimson Tide's 27-man signing class marks the third consecutive year in which it finished No. 1 in the ESPN Class Rankings.

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WORD ON THE WIRE
“You know, when Whirlpool takes their marbles and goes to Mexico, I mean, we need policies that punish the heck out of companies that take their business, their manufacturing and take it for cheap labor outside this country. That’s another problem on the national level that I detest.”
– Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe when asked about the state’s economy and prospects for jobs recovery

"Let's look at it as a math equation. We know (President) Barack Obama is immensely unpopular in Arkansas. We know Obamacare is unpopular at this point. If the Republicans and outside groups can equate that program and Obama with Pryor, I don't see how he has much luck."
– Will Watson, a Democratic consultant with Natural State Strategies in Fayetteville, about the U.S. Senate race between U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle

“Middle class and lower income consumers are having a tough time, paying higher taxes this year and Mother Nature isn’t doing anyone any favors. Budgets are tighter and there is less fuel in the tank to move this economy forward.”
– Rich Yamarone, chief economist with Bloomberg Brief, about the financial impact of U.S. winter storms on the American consumer

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