Do Republicans hate taxes? Does a wild bear, well, you know?

Republicans have issued a statement decrying Gov. Mike Beebe’s negotiated plan to increase the severance tax on natural gas. They say the legislature wasn’t involved and the process should be strung out until June anyway. Party Chair Dennis “What We Need Is Another 9/11” Milligan suggests a severance tax (lower than the one charged in Oklahoma and Texas) would drive gas producers away from the gas-rich Fayetteville shale. He doesn’t explain the basis for this wisdom.

This news release would be a ho-hum, except that, if every Republican in the legislature signs in, it will take only one additional vote — and Death Star Bob Johnson would be happy to supply it — to kill the tax in the Senate. There’s always iconoclastic Sen. Dave Bisbee to break from the Republican pack — and he’s no fan of party leadership, in that they deserted his bid to be Senate president pro tem — but he is running for county judge in Benton County and he might not want to get behind the severance tax either at this time. The tax money WOULD help build roads in growing Benton County, if that matters. But a property tax would have kept Bentonville kids out of trailers and voters there didn’t respond to that critical need yesterday.

Delaying a session until June is a non-starter. If the deal can’t be done in March, people need to be at the polls at the May primary with initiative petitions.

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NOTED: Poll coming this afternoon on the public mood vis a vis the severance tax. Since it won’t cost consumers anything and since proceeds will accrue toward the common good, I’m guessing the outcome won’t support the Republican position.

NOTED ALSO: Rep. Betty Pickett will take a resolution before an interim committee tomorrow calling for development of an integrated state plan to oversee exploration of the Fayetteville Shale and protect the environment in the process.