Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Permanent Solution to Fish Hatchery Funding

by U.S. Rep, Rick Crawford, AR01: Originally, Mitigation Fish Hatcheries were built to make up for native fisheries destroyed when the Federal Government built large Water Development Projects, like the dams at Greers Ferry and Norfork. Commitments made by the Federal Government to the States helped minimize the damage to local economies and the tens of millions of dollars brought by sportsmen and anglers to small businesses and the often rural tax base.

Unlike many Western hatcheries, where the Federal Agencies that caused the need for mitigation were required to fund mitigation, the mostly southern and eastern mitigation hatcheries have had to rely on competing interests of Water Development Agencies and the US Fish and Wildlife Service for annual funding.

To help solve this problem, I introduced legislation earlier this month to provide a long term and reliable solution for funding mitigation fish hatcheries. Our 1st District of Arkansas is home to Norfork Lake National Mitigation Hatchery in Mountain Home and the Greers Ferry National Mitigation Hatchery in Heber Springs. Both of these hatcheries bring avid anglers from across to country to our region, and the economic impact is enormous.

The bill, H.R. 2235, The National Mitigation Fisheries Coordination Act, addresses the uncertainty of hatchery funding. In the past, different federal agencies have traded the responsibility of these hatcheries back and forth, and the uncertainty created by that current system (or lack thereof) keeps the hatcheries constantly concerned about remaining open. My bill would emulate the successful mitigation programs in the Western states by requiring Water Development Agencies to reimburse the hatcheries.

H.R. 2235 has two basic elements. First, it requires the Water Development Agencies who are causing the need for mitigation actually pay for that mitigation. Second, it requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to to develop long-term agreements with the Water Development Agencies that will satisfy the mitigation commitments the Water Development Agencies made to the states when the Water Development Projects were built.

The loss of once bountiful fisheries that had drawn anglers and sportsmen from around the country should always be compensated. As of now, funding is piecemeal and voluntary, but our bill would create a permanent fix that ensures the hatcheries are properly reimbursed for the loss of the original species when these projects were started.

Tags: Rick Crawford, permanent solution, fish hatchery funding, H.R. 2235, Fish Hatchery Mitigation Fisheries Coordination Act To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Arkansas 2016 Preferential Primary Moved from May up to March

by Shelli Poole:  The Arkansas Legislature in Special Session has voted to move the 2016 Preferential Primary (that's where we narrow down our choices to one candidate per party), from May to March. The new date would be the 4th Tuesday in March, prior to the election. That falls on March 22, 2016.

See who voted for and against

The sponsors on this bill are 29 Republicans and 1 Democrat as follows:



Senate Bill 8
TITLE
An act to amend Arkansas law concerning the dates of the General Primary Election and Preferential Primary Election; to amend the time period for filing as a candidate for a Primary Election; to declare an emergency; and for other purposes.
SUBTITLE
To amend Arkansas law concerning the dates of the General Primary Election and Preferential Primary Election; to amend the time period for filing as a candidate for a Primary Election; and to declare an emergency.

Full Bill Attached Below:

Tags: 2015, 90th, Arkansas, arkleg, bill, candidates, elections, house, senate, legislators, legislature, preferential, presidential, primary, SB 8, senate, session, special To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Hutchinson on the Passage of Government Efficiencies Initiative

LITTLE ROCK  Governor Asa Hutchinson’s government efficiencies initiative (HB 1001 and SB 1) has passed both chambers of the Arkansas General Assembly with unanimous consent and will head to the Governor’s desk for his signature. (See attached for “Efficiencies Fact Sheet.”)

Governor Hutchinson released the following statement upon final passage:

“I’m very pleased with the broad-based, bipartisan support for our efficiencies measures. It signals to the taxpayers of Arkansas that the executive and legislative branches of government are of one mind when it comes to finding smarter, more efficient ways to deliver services. It makes sense. If we can do a better job for the taxpayers at less cost, we should


Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Efficiency Initiative
Approximate Savings over 5 Years:  $10,000,000 to $12,000,000


Tags: Governor, Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, Government Efficiency Initiative, saving millions, merging orgs, reducing positions To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson on the Passage of the Proposed Lockheed Martin Super Project; Details Bill Signing

LITTLE ROCK - Passing with broad, bipartisan support from both chambers, the proposed Amendment 82 Lockheed Martin super project in south Arkansas (HB 1003 and SB 6) will head to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk for his signature. If Lockheed Martin is awarded the contract to produce the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle for the Department of Defense, this project would create, over time, almost 600 new jobs at the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden while securing more than 1,100 jobs for the life of the project. (See attached for “Quick Facts.”)

Governor Hutchinson released the following statement upon final passage:
“This is an important next step in our attempt to help Lockheed-Martin secure a federal Defense contract and create hundreds of new jobs in South Arkansas.  The state of Arkansas is doing its part by overwhelmingly passing the Amendment 82 legislation. We are on board with bipartisan support. I’ve called this a golden opportunity for Arkansas, and it is — not just for us to expand our economy but to contribute to our nation’s defense.”
The bill signing and news conference will take place tomorrow morning. Details are as follows.

WHAT:           Lockheed Martin Super Project
News Conference & Bill Signing
WHEN:          11:30 am, Friday, May 29, 2015
WHERE:       Governor’s Conference Room
Arkansas State Capitol
Little Rock, AR

Approved by voters in 2004, Amendment 82 allows the state to issue bonds to finance infrastructure and other needs in order to attract major projects to the state of Arkansas.

Tags: Governor, Asa Hutchinson, bill signing, passage, proposed Lockheed Martin, Super Project To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Improving the Economy

Sen. John Boozman Bulletin: The Senate passed two crucial bills to grow our economy and create jobs in Arkansas and across the country before adjourning for the Memorial Day work period.
  • Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): TPA strengthens the voice of Congress in trade deals and allows a more collaborative effort with the executive branch in trade negotiations. Seeking opportunities for new agreements in a quick and fair manner is important because the vast majority of the world’s population lives outside of our borders. When we trade our goods and services with other nations, our economy grows, creating more jobs at home. Since agriculture is an integral part of Arkansas’s economy, TPA will also help promote trade of goods produced in the state. International trade already supports one in five jobs in Arkansas. That number will continue to grow with more free and fair trade agreements.
  • Highway Funding Bill: One of the keys to job creation and economic growth is maintaining safe, secure and reliable infrastructure across the nation. Congress passed this legislation to ensure that funding for the highway projects currently underway in Arkansas, and throughout the country, would not lapse. While a long-term solution to this ongoing problem is ideal and remains a priority for me, this short-term fix is crucial to Arkansas and other states that rely on this money to improve roads and bridges. 
I carried that message of economic security around Arkansas this week. Getting our economy on track is an issue that unites Arkansas. I was pleased to join other members of our state’s Congressional delegation throughout the week to show Arkansans that we are committed to improving our economy.

Lockheed Martin brought its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to Little Rock to showcase the vehicle it hopes to produce in East Camden. Alongside Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman Bruce Westerman, I urged our state legislators to help make East Camden the future home for this project, which will bring with it hundreds of highly skilled, quality jobs. Securing a contract of this magnitude is important for providing a solid economic foundation for the future of our state, South Arkansas and the people who call this region home.

As Congress returns to Washington, the focus must remain on creating jobs at home. We must continue to direct our energy toward creating policies that preserve and promote an environment that is business friendly, encourages productivity and innovation, supports educational opportunities, and affords all Americans the opportunity to achieve economic freedom.


Quick Takes:
  • Fighting the President’s Unconstitutional Immigration Action: This week a federal appeals court rejected the President’s appeal on immigration and continued to block the administration from implementing its unconstitutional immigration policy. Whilenews reports indicate that the President won’t ask the Supreme Court to review this, my colleagues and I are joining efforts against the President’s policy. Arkansas and 25 other states have challenged President Obama's moves to ease deportations for immigrants living in the country illegally. I recently joined more than 100 of my colleagues in filing an amicus brief in support of a continued injunction against President Obama’s executive overreach.    
  • Reining in EPA Water Overreach: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule this week that puts Washington in our backyards. The “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) is nothing more than government overreach disguised as a policy to protect our nation’s water and eliminate the role of state protection. The Senate needs to pass the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, legislation I cosponsored that would protect our nation’s waters and the rights of landowners against an overly burdensome and costly regulatory power-grab by Washington. This bill directs the EPA to revise its WOTUS rule to exclude waters that have never been controlled by the federal government like isolated ponds, ditches and agriculture water that lack enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.
      
  • Protecting Reliable and Affordable Energy: Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01) and I toured the Independence Steam Electric Station in Newark on Wednesday. This coal-fired plant is threatened under EPA’s carbon emissions plan that targets Arkansas for cuts stricter than 44 other states and puts jobs in our state at risk. EPA’s proposal limiting carbon emissions threatens to increase energy prices and reduce reliability. That’s why I recently joined Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and several of our colleagues to introduce the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act to fight back against this proposal.
  • VA Inspector General to Review Solar Panel Activation Failure: In my last e-newsletter I detailed an abuse of taxpayer dollars with the failed activation of the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s (VAMC) solar panels. The VA’s Office of Inspector General notified Congressman French Hill (AR-02) and I that it’s adding this location to its national project on VA’s Green Management Program Solar Panel Projects after we asked for a review of the agency’s renewable energy program because of this problem.
  • Broadband Access: Access to affordable and reliable Internet is vital in this modern age. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 84 percent of rural Arkansas lacks access to broadband. This is an important issue in our state. That’s why I asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler when the current, antiquated rules would be updated. The Chairman said he intends to implement reforms “by football season.” 
  • Giving Congress a Voice in Iran Negotiations: We have a responsibility to ensure that Iran never achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. That’s why the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Without this bill, there will be no review of the Iran deal. There would be nothing stopping President Obama from signing a bad agreement with Iran. There would be no limitation on the President’s ability to waive sanctions and it would be much more difficult for Congress to reinstate sanctions should Iran fail to live up to its end of the bargain. 
  • Critical Habitat Designation – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its final critical habitat designations for the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels under the Endangered Species Act  (ESA) of 1973. While the agency trimmed its original designation I still have concerns about the real economic cost/a> and will work with my colleagues to address this overreach.
  • Fort Smith Airport Fire Protection Grant: The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) awarded the Fort Smith Regional Airport nearly $600,000 for firefighting equipment. The funds will be used to buy a new fire truck and four fire protection suits to assist the airport in meeting safety requirements. This grant is important to the operation of the airport and economic development in the community.
  • Supporting Economic Growth Policies: I was honored to receive the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ award for voting for pro-jobs, pro-growth policies. I was appreciative of members of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce for presenting me with this recognition.
  • Operation Reboot: I had the opportunity to see how Arkansans are supporting our veterans during a visit to Rogers-based Operation Reboot. Watch my video about this great program that helps veterans in their transition to housing. As part of National Military Appreciation Month I encourage you to honor the men and women who wore our nation's uniform.

Tags: John Boozman, improving the economy, Arkansas, U.S. Senator To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Arkansas Army National Guard Proposes Closing 8 Armories . . .

. . . Saving $306,000 annually.

LITTLE ROCK, AR — The Arkansas Army National Guard has proposed shutting down eight armories as part of a restructuring plan that will go before Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the plan calls for closing armories, also known as readiness centers, in Berryville, Blytheville, Brinkley, Crossett, Helena-West Helena, Rector, Walnut Ridge and Wynne.

A spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard said no personnel would be cut due to the closures and the property would be donated to the cities in which they are located. The armories were selected based on their age and how many people can be recruited in those areas.

Closing the armories would save the state National Guard about $306,000 annually in operating costs. The plan will go before the governor on Thursday.

Tags: Arkansas, Restructuring Plan, Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas National Guard, armories To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Forgotten 115,000

"States with lower marginal income tax rates have higher economic growth ... Dependence on revenues from taxpayers in high marginal tax brackets exposes the state government to revenue instability, which makes forecasting much more difficult." ~ Arkansas Policy Foundation, 1998 report1

by Greg Kaza, Arkansas Policy Foundation: Critics of capital gains and income tax cuts used fallacious reasoning in numerous failed attempts to defeat tax cuts in 2013 and 2015.  One logical fallacy, the ad hominem argument, was trotted out to attack Arkansas entrepreneurs and argue only the wealthy pay capital gains taxes. Another fallacy, the argumentum ad lapidem,2 consists of dismissing tax cut proponents' claims without examining their content. This is not 'A is A' reasoning. These claims must be rebutted for Arkansas to build on the tax cuts enacted in 2013-15 and move forward.

More Arkansans Pay Capital Gains Taxes Than Critics Concede
Critics of the capital gains tax cut enacted in 2013 and reauthorized this year claim only the wealthy benefit.  Records obtained from the state Department of Finance and Administration suggest a different picture: the average number of Arkansas resident filers with capital gains totaled nearly 115,000 from 2005 to 2013.3  These forgotten taxpayers include Arkansans4 within all income groups: upper-, middle-, and lower-income.

The revelation that more than 100,000 Arkansans paid state capital gains in six of these years should not surprise students of the economy. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

"Almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset. Examples include a home, personal-use items like household furnishings, and stocks or bonds held as investments. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the basis in the asset and the amount you sell it for is a capital gain or a capital loss ... You have a capital gain if you sell the asset for more than your basis. You have a capital loss if you sell the asset for less than your basis. Losses from the sale of personal-use property, such as your home or car, are not deductible."5

Upper-income households aren't the only Arkansas households to own "a home, personal-use items like household furnishings, and stocks and bonds held as investments."  The three great bull markets of the last quarter-century have created various capital gains for many Arkansans.

The Policy Content Behind Capital Gains Tax Reduction
Tax cut critics dismiss arguments for repeal without examining content.  One tactic is to dismiss the 1998 Policy Foundation report, while ignoring the Fluor GLS report later funded by the General Assembly.  In fact, both reached a similar conclusion: the capital gains tax places Arkansas at a competitive disadvantage with other states. In terms of jobs creation, Arkansas is near only one state without the tax in the current expansion:

State
June 2009
March 2015(p)
Growth Rate
Texas
10,285,500
11,753,200
14.3%
Florida
7,221,100
8,022,900
11.1%
Washington
2,861,700
3,152,300
10.2%
Tennessee
2,605,700
2,844,700
  9.2%
Nevada
1,144,400
1,237,200
  8.1%
South Dakota
403,400
429,200
  6.4%
Alaska
319,600
337,700
  5.7%
New Hampshire
628,400
654,000
  4.1%
Wyoming
284,900
295,200
  3.615%
Arkansas
1,161,300
1,203,200
  3.608%6

Conclusion
Critics of the state capital gains tax cut enacted in 2013-15 use fallacious reasoning.  One fallacy is that only the wealthy pay the capital gains tax.  DFA records show average Arkansas resident capital gains filers totaled nearly 115,000 (2005-2013).  Another ignores content. States that do not levy a capital gains tax have higher job creation rates than Arkansas.

1 Murphy Commission report, Taxes and Savings in Arkansas (September 1998)
2 Latin for "against the man" and "appeal to the stone."
3 DFA, 2005-2013 Capital Gain Statistics: (2005) 141,825; (2006) 145,220; (2007) 162,751; (2008) 104,368; (2009) 67,308; (2010) 84,558; (2011) 93,406; (2012) 107,131; and (2013) 126,654. The "revenue instability" discussed in the Foundation's 1998 report is illustrated by the decline below trend around the Great Recession, which occurred between December 2007 and June 2009.
4 The average annual number of non-resident filers with capital gains totaled 22,398 between 2005 and 2013.
5 IRS, Topic 409, "Capital Gains and Losses." http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc409.html. The IRS explains, "Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term. If you hold the asset for more than one year before you dispose of it, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, your capital gain or loss is short-term. To determine how long you held the asset, count from the day after the day you acquired the asset up to and including the day you disposed of the asset."
6 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
------------
by Greg Kaza is executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, a Little Rock think tank founded in 1995.

Tags: Greg Kaza, Arkansas Policy Foundation, the forgotten 115,000, capital gains, tax   To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Boozman Statement on EPA’s Finalized WOTUS Rule

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rule on the "waters of the United States" (WOTUS).

“This EPA overreach threatens farmers, ranchers and private landowners' ability to use their property. This rule will raise costs without providing clean water benefits, takes control away from states and increases uncertainty all while causing project delays as Arkansans try to figure out where this EPA power-grab applies.

"The agency believes that unless it controls all of our nation’s water, this resource is not protected.
t be further from the truth.

There is bipartisan agreement that this rule extends beyond the authority of EPA. It’s time to pass the bipartisan Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which I am cosponsoring, to clarify the role of Washington bureaucrats. I will continue to work with my colleagues to reverse this rule.”


Tags: Sen. John Boozman, EPA, Water of the US Rule, taking property rights, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Judge Shawn Womack Candidate for Arkansas Supreme , , ,

. . . Announcement and Interviews on AR1TV

Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home announced his candidacy on Tuesday (May 26) for the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Womack is seeking the Position 5 seat on the Supreme Court held by Associate Justice Paul E. Danielson, who said he is not seeking re-election.

Womack has served in the state House of Representatives and state Senate and also was a special associate justice for the state Supreme Court during a two-month period in 2005.

Womack, a Mountain Home High School graduate, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a law degree from the University of Arkansas.

AR1TV Interviews by Curtis Coleman:

Judge Shawn Womack Candidate for Arkansas Supreme Court - Part 1
"It's not the role of the court to make policy." Judge Shawn Womack - Part 2
"It is important to maintain the separation of powers." - Judge Shawn Womack - Part 3

Tags: Shawn Womack, candidate, Arkansas, Supreme Court,  position 5, interviews, Curtis Coleman, AR1TV To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PO Pushes Up Blue Cross Revenue 42.6 Percent

by Debbie Pelley, Contributing Author: At this rate of profit Blue Cross could finance any campaign/campaigns by the millions, enough money to even unseat those now in office and replace them with politicians that are even more favorable to ever increasing spending and more health insurance, like the Democrats for example. More Comments after Excerpt from the following article:
Affordable Care Act Pushes Up Revenue for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield
by Mark Friedman: Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield’s remarkable 42.6 percent surge in revenue in 2014 over the previous year is mainly a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The health insurance company’s revenue jumped from $1.4 billion to $1.99 billion in 2014, posting the second highest percentage revenue increase on Arkansas Business’ list of the 75 largest private companies. It is No. 3 on the list of Arkansas’ largest private companies ranked by revenue. [Pelley Comment: It may be called a private company but if so it is receiving a form of high priced subsidies from the government – private public partnership or fascism – the government picking winners and losers.]

The driver of the revenue growth was the 206,000 newly insured members who obtained coverage because of health care reform, Mark White, ABCBS’ president and CEO, recently told Arkansas Business from the company’s Little Rock headquarters.

“When we started off thinking about the ACA and the fact that there were half a million Arkansans who were without insurance, we anticipated there would be quite a bit of enrollment,” White said.

Those newly insured customers obtained their policies through the so-called “private option,” the health insurance exchange or bought health insurance on their own, White said. . . .

Arkansas accepted the federal money, crafting a unique approach to Medicaid expansion known as the private option, which uses those federal dollars to buy insurance for eligible Arkansans from private carriers — mainly Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, which offers group and individual health insurance. . . .

To gear up for the newly insured, ABCBS opened retail outlets where people can go to learn about health care policies. It also has opened temporary locations at Goodwill Industries of Arkansas’ stores around the state during the enrollment period.

That strategy proved to work. “We’ve done slightly better than we expected to,” White said.

Consumers usually stick with the providers they sign up with, unless there are rate increases or they aren’t happy with the insurer’s service, White said.

Profit Rises 22 Percent
. . . The act requires insurance companies to spend 80 percent of the premium collected on individual policies on medical care or send policyholders a refund. For group plans, it has to be 85 percent spent on medical care.

White said those percentages “are not unreasonable numbers to live with” and they haven’t created a challenge for the carrier.

ABCBS’ net income for 2014 was $46 million. That’s a 21.9 percent increase in profit, compared with the 42.6 percent increase in revenue, resulting in a slimmer margin. [Pelley Comment: So who profited from the difference in the revenue increase and the percent profit by Blue Cross?]

Private Option
. . . The federal government will pay all of the costs for the expansion through 2016, and then gradually decrease its share of the funding to 90 percent, leaving the state to pay 10 percent. . . .

White said ABCBS isn’t getting into the middle of the politics of the private option.

Removing coverage under the private option would be unfair to the 206,000 Arkansans who now have health insurance, he said.

And even with the private option, about 250,000 Arkansans remain uninsured.

“"From our perspective, we’re hoping that the program is not discontinued,"” White said. . . .
In Senator David Sanders' 2012 election he received $22,305 (15%) of his money from medical related contributions. In 2014, after being one of the main architects of the Private Option and one of its most vocal defenders, Sanders' medical related contributions totaled $76,355, slightly more than 50% of his total campaign contributions of $151,255.. Sanders had no opponent in the primary or the general election in this 2014 campaign.

Now that Sanders is going after those 1332 waivers, watch for even greater contributions from the medical field - unless some Democrat promises even more than Sanders is willing to deliver. What a mess we are in! Politicians being paid by businesses who profit from their legislation, making it harder and harder to get legislators in office that really are honest and concerned about the citizens.

Note: I was told that Speaker Gillam did not receive any significant money from his own district in his race. Count that as a rumor until I am able to trace down the documentation on that, but I have good reason to believe it's true.

Tags: Debbie Pelley, Private Option, BlueCross revenue, increased 42.6%, Arkansas, Senator, David Sanders, contributions, medical related To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Investing in our Future: The Highway Bill

by U.S. Representative Rick Crawford, AR-01: As a Member of Congress, I'm charged with being the best steward of our revenues that I can be. In general, I believe the government is spending too much, as evidenced by our current debt crisis.

However, there are projects that are very effective and deserving of our revenues, and our nation's infrastructure is one. Infrastructure spending provides an almost unparalleled return on taxpayer investment, as it not only employs thousands of Arkansans, but modern infrastructure also encourages businesses to set up shop in Arkansas.

MAP-21 was the last transportation bill passed, and that was back in 2012. We desperately need a modern, updated version that addresses our country's currently crumbling infrastructure, and perhaps no one knows that better than the Arkansans who live in the 1st District.

We on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have been working on a long-term, fully-funded comprehensive bill so we can stop passing short-term patches. We have a pretty good idea of what that bill would like, and are working as hard as we can to prepare it for passage. All of us on the Committee agree that a long-term, preferably 5-year, bill is the goal.

The challenge we’ve encountered is the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. Our debt crisis continues to overextend precious resources for critical projects and it leaves few options at our immediate disposal, many which are not palatable in this economic environment.

To be successful, a long-term solution must combine a consistent funding mechanism with financial transparency. Our current system, through shortfalls and opaque applications of funding, has lost the trust of Americans, who don’t know where or how their tax dollars are being invested. People in Arkansas don't want their taxes to go towards urban public transportation in other states; they rightly want their money invested in the highways they rely on everyday.

Currently, the primary financier of the trust fund is the federal gas tax, which has remained the same since 1993. Meanwhile, cars have become more efficient and people are driving less, so the fund isn't being replenished at the rate it once was. Both the Transportation and Ways and Means Committees will have to consider new, creative funding alternatives to find a fiscally sustainable solution to this chronic problem.

At this point, the focus is on finding one or more consistent funding mechanisms, a way to regularly and reliably fund our programs. Since my Committee only authorizes transportation programs, the Ways and Means Committee is responsible for finding how to pay for it.

The trust fund was set to expire on May 31, but in order to allow more time to find a more permanent fix, we passed a two-month patch to keep the trust fund afloat. Passage of the patch, HR 2353, was critical in preventing the shutdown of current infrastructure improvement. I’m hopeful the extra time the patch allows will be used wisely by Chairman Ryan and the rest of Ways and Means to find a reliable funding source.

There is a shared commitment between the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and most members of the House to passing a fully-funded multi-year highway bill, but that commitment must bear the fruit of action. Failure to act threatens our general contractors and their employees, suppliers, and puts at risk the jobs that are both directly and indirectly supported by these projects.

Tags: Rick Grawford, Investing in our Future, The Highway Bill, HR 2353, Two month patch, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Boozman, Cotton, Crawford Announce USDA Funding for McCrory, Cotter & Brinkley

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton along with Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded rural development grants to the communities of McCrory and Cotter for first responder vehicles and equipment. USDA has approved a loan for the city of Brinkley to make improvements to its existing wastewater treatment plant.
   
“These rural development funds will go a long way toward helping these three communities grow. The grants for McCrory and Cotter will help upgrade the communities’ police and firefighting vehicles and equipment to respond faster and more effectively to emergencies. The loan will help the city of Brinkley modernize critical infrastructure,” Boozman said.

“This is great news for three deserving Arkansas communities,” said Cotton. “They will now be able to make important updates to their infrastructure and emergency response capabilities and help make Arkansas safer and stronger.”

“The needs of rural Americans are too often not given the priority they deserve, so I’m very pleased to see that our communities are receiving the assistance they need. The loan and these development grants will help keep Cotter, McCrory, and Brinkley safe and running smoothly,” Crawford said.

The details released from USDA are as follows:

McCrory: $17,000 USDA Rural Development grant to purchase a fire department vehicle and equipment.

Cotter: Two separate USDA Rural Development grants totaling $8,800 (grants for $6,800 & $2,000) to purchase a police vehicle and equipment.

Brinkley: $1,317,000 USDA Rural Development loan to make improvements to the city’s existing wastewater treatment plant. 

Tags:  John Boozman, Tom Cotton, Rick Crawford, USDA funding, McCrory, Cotter, Brinkley To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Many Arkansans Pay State Capital Gains Tax

Greg Kaza
by Greg Kaza, Commentary: Arkansas policymakers, in this year’s legislative session, maintained a 50 percent state capital gains tax exemption enacted in 2013. The move was opposed by some who argue the idea benefits only a small number of wealthy Arkansans and is partisan policy.

Public records obtained from the state Department of Finance & Administration paint a different picture. There were 126,654 Arkansas resident and 27,720 nonresident fliers in 2013. The DFA records, which date to 2005, show there were five other years when more than 100,000 Arkansans paid state capital gains taxes: (2005) 141,825; (2006) 145,220; (2007) 162,751; (2008) 104,368; and (2012) 107,131. That’s a country mile from the small group of entrepreneurs singled out by critics.

In fact, the annual average since 2005 is nearly 115,000 Arkansans.

The revelation should not surprise observers. The Internal Revenue Service notes: “Almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset. Examples include a home, personal-use items like household furnishings, and stocks or bonds held as investments. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the basis in the asset and the amount you sell it for is a capital gain or a capital loss. ... You have a capital gain if you sell the asset for more than your basis.”

Upper-income households aren’t the only Arkansas households to own “a home, personal-use items like household furnishings, and stocks and bonds held as investments.” The three great bull markets of the last quarter-century have created capital gains for Arkansans of various income classes.

Exemption opponents also describe it as a Republican policy, but the policy’s history is more complex. A Democrat, state Sen. Jim Hill of Nashville, successfully sponsored a 30 percent exemption in 1999. Democrats controlled the Arkansas Legislature, and Mike Huckabee, the Republican governor, signed Act 1005 into law.

A decade later, in 2009, Republican state Rep. Ed Garner of Maumelle sponsored a capital gains tax reduction (HB 1947) that passed the House with 29 Republican and 27 Democratic votes. It died in the state Senate. Act 1488, the 2013 measure creating the 50 percent exemption, was sponsored by Republican Speaker Davy Carter and signed into law by Mike Beebe, the Democratic governor. In sum, the policy of reducing the capital gains tax has been supported by policymakers of both parties.

Where does that leave exemption opponents? The tax generates revenues, which totaled $86.4 million (2013). These, however, tend to be more unstable in contractions like the Great Recession, which occurred from December 2007 to June 2009. DFA records show only 67,308 resident filers claimed capital gains in 2009 when the tax raised $47.6 million. By contrast, 88,874 residents claimed losses that year.

The Fluor GLS study, commissioned by the Legislature early this century, noted Arkansas’ capital gains rate is higher than that of other states in the region. One reason for phasing out the capital gains tax, over a multiyear period, is that some states do not tax income and have higher job creation rates. The latest evidence: Texas (14.3 percent) and Florida (11.1 percent) payroll employment has increased more than the U.S. (7.8 percent) and Arkansas (3.6 percent) in the current expansion.
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by Greg Kaza is executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, a Little Rock think tank founded in 1995. This article was provided by the author. It was first published in Arkansas Business.

Tags: Greg Kaza, capital gains tax, Arkansas Department of Finance AND Administration, Arkansas Policy Foundation To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Governor Hutchinson Makes Official Call for Special Legislative Session . . .

. . . Agenda Items Focus on Economic Development and Government Efficiencies

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has made the official call to legislators for a special session of the 90th General Assembly that will convene Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Along with the official call, the Governor has announced all items on the special session agenda below.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:
“This limited agenda focuses on job creation and economic development, while highlighting government efficiencies that will ultimately result in savings to all Arkansas taxpayers.”

Agenda items are as follows:
  • To consider an Amendment 82 “super project” at Highland Industrial Park in Calhoun County.
  • To consider reorganization of state agencies to provide efficiencies, better services and savings:
    Ø Merging the Arkansas Department of Rural Services (ADRS) with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC)
    Ø Merging the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority (ASTA) with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC)
    Ø Merging the Arkansas Building Authority (ABA) with the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA)
    Ø Merging the Division of Land Survey with the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (AGIO)
  • To make a minor fix to DWI law to assure continuation of federal highway funds.
  • To ensure that state law aligns with potential changes in federal law regarding farm-equipment traffic on a new section of interstate highway.
  • To correct technical errors made to bills when amendments were engrossed.
  • To move the full Arkansas primary elections from May to March.
  • To move the General Assembly’s fiscal session from February to April.
  • To honor Johnson County Deputy Sheriff Sonny Smith.
  • To confirm Gubernatorial appointments.
Signed proclamation will be place on Governor's website under Proclamations.

Tags: Governor Hutchinson, proclamation, special session, agenda To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Congressman French Hill Relaunches Golden Fleece Award to Highlight Wasteful Government Spending


Watch Hill’s Floor Speech Reintroducing the Golden Fleece Award

Floor statement of Congressman French Hill, as prepared delivery
5/20/2015

At a time when our Nation is currently over $18 trillion in debt, we must carefully scrutinize our government programs to ensure that we are funding essential programs and projects while eliminating frivolous and wasteful spending.

Every day in the news, Americans hear of government waste, fraud, and abuse, and regulations that are hindering our small business and costing American taxpayers billions of dollars that could be better spent creating jobs and boosting our economy.

I rise today to reestablish the Golden Fleece Award to once again uncover and bring public attention to the wasteful spending of our federal government.

The Golden Fleece Award will highlight some of the most egregious examples of government waste of hardworking taxpayers’ dollars and shed new light on some of the rampant, unnecessary spending by the federal government.
The Golden Fleece Award was pioneered by Democratic U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, William Proxmire in March 1975. For the next 13 years, he went on to issue bulletins announcing a monthly Golden Fleece Award.

The Golden Fleece Award became a staple in the U.S. Senate during this time, and Senator Robert Byrd once stated that the awards were “as much a part of the Senate as quorum calls and filibusters.”

The Golden Fleece Award will once again serve as an important reminder to taxpayers about the need to provide necessary reforms to our federal spending.

I will utilize social media and the Internet to provide a unique platform for my constituents to share with me examples they have seen of waste by our federal government by using #GoldenFleeceOversight on Twitter, or emailing GoldenFleece@mail.house.gov.

I have also established a website that allows users to submit their recommendations for the Golden Fleece Award at Hill.house.gov/GoldenFleece.

Americans are crying out for this accountability from our leaders, and I look forward to working for them and with my colleagues to find ways to effectively eliminate wasteful spending in Washington.

Tags: U.S. Rep. French Hill, Arkansas, relaunches, Golden Fleece Award, highlight Wasteful government spending To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.