Great reporting in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today on how Rep. Andy Mayberry and his wife, Julie, who hopes to succeed him in the legislature, conspired with other Republican legislators from Saline County and nearby to direct spending $124,000 in state pork barrel money to build a park for handicapped children, including the Mayberry’s daughter, on land currently owned by the Mayberry family.
It is a clear case of state legislators controlling their General Improvement Fund money by manipulating the cash through a local planning and development district. It’s just as wrong as the old practice of specifically legislating spending for a legislator’s pet local project. Laundering the money through a third party doesn’t make it any less of an unconstitutional piece of local spending legislation.
It is going to take another lawsuit by Mike Wilson to stop the scam devised to get around his earlier victory in 2006. You’d hope a little public shaming might help. But probably not.
I’m sure the legislators thought nobody would possibly raise a question about an order to spend state money on a park for handicapped children. But the Saline Quorum Court had a few concerns about unfunded mandates — creation of a county park that will be the county’s ongoing obligation to maintain. The county has no sales tax for such frills as a parks department. Good fiscally conservative Republicans work on the Quorum Court, as opposed to the easy spending local Republican legislative delegation in the Arkansas House and Senate — Mayberry, Ann Clemmer, Kim Hammer, Andy Davis, Alan Clark, Jeremy Hutchinson.
This wasn’t the first time Saline Republican legislators had ordered spending of General Improvement Funds for a local project. Remember when Sen. Jeremy “Gatorbait” Hutchinson ordered that the same planning agency, Central Arkansas Planning and Development, underwrite the July 4 fireworks show in Benton? These groups dare not say no to legislators.
PS — And yes, I should have noted that this particular legislator-ordered handout is so the Mayberrys can get a park in their backyard by leveraging this money for another $250,000 from the state Parks and Tourism Department. Not that parks would feel any pressure to hand out a local parks grant because it was being pushed by a gaggle of legislators.