Tax cut politics

opinion by Maylon Rice

Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.

If ever there was a candidates’ self-made trap of destruction during a campaign, it is when an over confident, swaggering candidate rolls out a proposed tax cut during the pre-Federal tax season

This past week, North Little Rock businessman and gubernatorial hopeful Curtis Coleman once again helped us make this case. Coleman, who is running a distant second to GOP front-runner Asa Hutchinson, snared himself via his own words. He allowed his glee and over exuberance at a press conference to lavishly front his own proposed plan to slash state taxes. He allowed his own frugal idealistic and anti-tax ideology, to get ahead, way ahead, of the state of Arkansas’ reality.

Coleman was in hopes that this new, vibrant tax slashing plan would catapult him ahead in the GOP/Tea Party Primary for May 20. He never though the plan would ensnare him by on his own words. It was an “Aha!” moment for those who are always watching for one of the six (at last count) candidates for the next Governor of Arkansas, to step on his or her tongue in the midst of a state-wide campaign.

And to this credit, Coleman didn’t just step on his tongue in trying to explain his plan – he mashed it flat. Newspapers, the wire services and most of the electronic media picked up on his obvious self-inflicted wound. But Coleman, who has once again demonstrated that a businessman bebad at retail politics in our state, he barely got the jest of his own hidden message.

That message was so quickly uncovered and picked up from long time Capitol Dome observers, which translated into the following. “Oh boy, did he just say what I thought he said?” Did candidate Coleman say he is more about cutting state taxes than educating the public school children of Arkansas? Did candidate Coleman, in the hurry to generate some political traction for his faltering campaign which lacks both money and substance, think his announced proposed $2.4 billion dollar slash-and-burn tax plan would ignite the GOP base? And did candidate Coleman say this ill-conceived plan would be his No. 1 priority in office?

Well, yes, he did think all of those things. And there is more.

Did candidate Coleman say that most of his slashing of taxes will be made up from the reduction of the budgets of state agencies? Did candidate Coleman says that he will not let state government in Arkansas grow more than the state’s economy by letting some businesses be exempt from paying the state’s corporate income tax?

And finally did candidate Coleman say he would set up “tax free zones” for allowing out-of-state industry come in to poor, depressed areas and set up shop exempt from state taxes for a decade?

Sure he said all of those things. But there is a catch on these new tax free zones. These “new” companies can’t come in and compete against existing industry – like, for example, Coleman’s own Safe Foods?

See, he’s no dummy.

The bottom line, however, is somewhere in all this fluff. The more a candidate like Coleman begins scribbling down his tax slash and burn formula, the more the paper catches fire. We can cut this and this and surely we can cut this. Let’s run it like a business. You bet we can.

And suddenly it looks like State Government in Arkansas is going out of business.
Would candidate Coleman propose such a plan to a Board of Directors for an up and running successful business? Would that plan work?

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Does his plan mean that educating the state’s school children, increasing state employee paychecks, or heck, even the daily business of taking care of the state’s business, be a priority somewhere way down the line, after cutting taxes?

Candidate Coleman was so enamored with his own reduction in state tax rates he overlooked that his changes would actually raise taxes on the least able to pay taxes – the working poor.  But we can fix that if need be, he seemed to say.

We thought he was a good businessman. But surely by his own words and actions, he is one a pitifully poor policy politician.

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