That was a mountain of reporting in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on a variety of issues related to state spending by and for elected officials. The work is appreciated, particularly on a quiet holiday weekend. In short:
* It’s probably legal to reimburse Court of Appeals judges for auto miles driven from their homes to Little Rock for court work. Those who are reimbursed are required to be residents of districts removed from Little Rock to run and the capital is their work station.
* It probably isn’t legal to fail to pay federal taxes on the free automobiles provided most statewide public officials . (Gov. Beebe seems in the clear on this. He only takes rides in the State Police security detail, but has no car for his personal use.) The state should begin declaring these perks as income (which would be difficult since pay enhancements are limited by the state Constitution.) The automobile question, it occurs to me, might be worth further examination for the hundreds of government workers in Arkansas who take cars home. If these were routinely declared as income, with withholding, the fleet might not be so large.
* If it’s legal for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to decide unilaterally how to spend his “cash funds,” (accrued from lawsuits and such) it shouldn’t be. Not even if the spending cited in McDaniel’s case ($100,000 to a firefighters memorial) is a motherhood/apple pie/political points-earning contribution. The legislature should appropriate the public’s money, not the office through which it passes. Kudos to Gary Smith of the War Memorial Stadium Commission for honoring that bedrock principle in how the stadium handles, for example, its recent infusion of advertising revenue.