The committee financed by Walmart and Kum & Go seeking elections to allow retail alcohol sales in Faulkner, Saline and Craighead counties commissioned a report from the University of Arkansas that touts the benefits of sales expansion.
A similar study was commissioned in advance of the drive financed by Walmart heirs to allow retail sales in Benton County. Petitions are circulating for these local option elections as well as a statewide petition effort. Signatures must be submitted by July 7.
The study claims an impact worth millions in taxes, jobs and other economic activity — more than $10 million worth in each county.
The three counties have private clubs but no retail outlets. Retail alcohol sellers in neighboring counties, particularly Conway County and counties neighboring Craighead are spending to defeat these measures. Scraps have broken out in Faulkner County where the Conway County alcohol sellers have employed people to discourage voters from signing petitions being circulated by the pro-wet committee. Both sides have been advertising heavily on TV. The Walmart and Kum & Go contributions have been disclosed. The Conway County beverage dealers’ contributions haven’t been reported yet, but Mary Dillard, who’s leading their campaign, has confirmed they are backing the effort.
The positive impacts in newly wet counties will, of course, be at least partially offset statewide by lost business in neighboring counties.
Some related parties are also at work on a statewide petition drive to legalize retail sales in all Arkansas counties. That effort got a late start. As in the three counties, it uses a professional company to obtain signatures. David Couch, attorney for the effort, told me yesterday he was optimistic it would reach its goal.