Editorial: “One More Special-Interest Exemption”

Editorial: One More Special-Interest Exemption  (Grapevine, March 23, 1983)

by Peter Tooker

“Supply-side economics” may be dead in Washington—when was the last time you heard a Reagan official invoke the hallowed phrase?—but here in Arkansas it’s quite alive and well, thank you. As proof positive, in its last days of regular session, the Arkansas Legislature passed a bill to exempt manufacturers’ purchases of replacement machinery from the state sales tax; a bill estimated to cost at the very least $2 million, and perhaps as much as $6 million annually.

With its act of blind obeisance to the Reaganite maxim “make the rich richer and they will trickle down on the rest of us,” the Legislature included one more special-interest exemption in an enormous litany of special-interest tax breaks. And, adding injury to insult, the legislators cut state revenues despite facing the tightest state government budget picture of modern times. Theirs not to question why when a big-bucks lobby comes pleading for more money.

Yet, most boggling of all in this tragi-comedy of errors, Governor Bill Clinton is on the record supporting the further pillaging of his treasury. According to the Arkansas Gazette of March 15, Clinton “indicated that he liked the idea of the bill, saying the Committee should vote for it if it decided there would be a net revenue gain because of the new jobs created.”

Spoken like a true Reagan Republican, Bill. Just put the bucks in the hands of the wealthy and they’ll take care of everything. Just as they’ve taken care of us for the past two years.

Even more significant than his new-found trickle-down approach to state economics it the fact that, at his insistence, the exemption will not become law until January 1, 1985. Apparently Bill plans to be long gone from the governor’s manse by then. He’ll leave this headache for some other poor sucker to suffer through.

Already, according to the legislative Joint Interim Committee on Revenue and Taxation, the state is losing $384.8 million each year because of tax exemptions to special wealthy interests. There are a total of at least 27 of them (see our article, “Taking Exceptions,” Grapevine, July 22, 1981), including exemptions for cotton and its by-products, seed, livestock, fertilizer, feedstuffs for livestock and poultry, manufacturing and equipment, farm equipment, aircraft manufactured in the state, ships of 50 tons or more, electricity used in the manufacturing of aluminum…ad nauseam.

In that article we conservatively estimated that average Arkansans are paying 60 percent more than their fair share of sales taxes because of these big-buck giveaways; 60 percent more than they should because every dollar that’s given to special interests has to come from the rest of us.

Next time you’re at the grocery store checkout line, think about this. And the next time you see your local legislator, tell him how you feel about his giving away your hard-earned dollars.