opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice has 40 years of experience working as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several Arkansas newspapers. 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.
It has all the attributes of a school yard dust up. Or even juvenile finger-pointing just like at home between two siblings. You know, one of those, “he said it first” arguments witnessed by a frazzled parent tired of all the arguments.
Our two leading gubernatorial candidates, Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross, recently have been sparring in the news, with charges and counter charges over what has proved to be an improper homestead tax credit and its subsequent penalty fee involving Hutchinson. Though their paid public relation spokesmen and in written statements to the press, both these men showed a little bit of that schoolyard silliness.
Ross, according to statements made by his campaign spokesman to the Democrat-Gazette, Ross said the revelations… “that Congressman Hutchinson cheated on his taxes and then evaded penalties for doing so.” Hutchinson bristled back saying Ross called him a “tax cheat.”
And not missing a beat in the brouhaha, Hutchinson said Ross was “attacking a tax payer who caught his own error; and then reported the error to the government; and paid what he was told to pay.” That folks is much better than that old worn out Washington drivel about whom voting with the President Obama X-number percent of the time. Now isn’t it?
In reality, not many Arkansans own two homes at once.
But at least one of the aforementioned candidates, Hutchison who has homes in both Rogers and Little Rock, inadvertently, he says, got the double benefit of a homestead tax credit from 2008-2012. First Hutchinson, who seems to have a penchant for remembering details, didn’t seem to remember the tax application duplication slip up. But once confronted with a fax showing his personal signature on the 2nd tax exemption application, he seemed to have more recall on the topic.
Hutchinson admitted he should not have collected the tax exemption on both homes at the same time. He offered to pay back the tax amount deferred and even the full penalty, but some non-elected bureaucrat in Pulaski County, at the time, didn’t want to levy the fine.
But state laws, as Ross’ folks have pointed out, say there is no other option but to pay the back taxes and the fine. So Asa went back to the Pulaski County office of the chief assessment officer and made his tax bill right.
For two guys who have raised a record amount for an Arkansas gubernatorial campaign, and have a combined $3.5 million in the bank waiting to lob expensive ads at one another in the final days of the race, all this talk about a less than $2,000 issue was a little surprising.
The duo met in Springdale a week or so ago as Asa got a little embarrassed by the Farm Bureau’s No. 1 question about being a member of its association. Hutchinson, at first, said he was a member, but quickly corrected himself by saying: “I’ve never paid any money.”
Hence he has never a paid member of the Farm Bureau.
Ross quickly recounted his annual $35 check for Farm Bureau membership was always paid at the Nevada County Fair in Prescott, Ross’ hometown. He even gets a free hot dog or hamburger at the Farm Bureau sign-up. No biggie.
The testiness from the two candidates may be proof that the latest Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College poll shows the race close, with neither man polling 51%. Hutchinson holds a 46-41 percentage point lead over Ross after the survey of 1,780 likely state voters were polled in the Arkansas Governor’s race. The poll, which was conducted July 22-25 across all four Congressional districts, has a margin of error of +/-2.3%. Also in that poll there was a 3% margin for Libertarian Frank Gilbert; a 2.5% margin for Green candidate Joshua Drake.
And larger groups of 7.5% of those polled are Undecided.
Roby Brock, the Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief, said he views the race, “as much more fluid and lacking in definition than the U.S. Senate race. With neither candidate breaking 50% at this point in the campaign, I won’t be surprised to see the race go in any direction over the next three months.”
With the personal testiness and school yard antics of last week, this race may not be as dull as we have billed it in the past. That’s more like the Governor’s races of the past we have all come to know and expect.