Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman’s HB 1041, to put an arbitary 3 percent cap on annual state spending increases was at the top of the House agenda this morning but passed over. That’s an indication it remains short of sufficient support of passage. Every single Republican must do the Stepford act, including the speaker, who customarily does not vote, to put this one over the top.
It’s bad policy. It will leave individual agencies with expenses that outstrip inflation — think what runup in gas prices can do to state troopers; what health care increases have done to medical programs — facing real cuts. The requirement that revenue increases be pegged to a three-year rolling averages means that the state, in an upswing year after a recession, couldn’t spend the new money, however great the need. It means that the occasional growth years wouldn’t allow use of extra money to meet long-deferred maintenance or for the building projects for which surplus has typically been used. It also will delegate to the executive making the cuts necessary for the legislatively approved budget to meet revenue flow.
This is a government-strangler, a handcuff on using government when needs are identified and there’s money in hand to meet them.
UPDATE: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has posted some good information on how Westerman’s bill would be bad for children and other living things. The benchmark for GDP is ambiguous. The result, as charts show, is that modest state revenue growth would be an impossibility. Which just might be Westerman’s point.