The legislature put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to expand corporate welfare exponentially. It would allow pledging of state tax revenues to pay off bonds for “economic development” projects. That no longer means only industrial facilities, but also, for example, the likes of expansion of existing regional offices.
The first — and key — part of the amendment overrides a Pulaski Circuit Court decision that held unconstitutional local government subsidies to chambers of commerce. This has become a statewide practice, though the Little Rock Regional Chamber gets enough out of the city to pay a good portion of its staff through two different corporate welfare schemes. That money has been stopped and some other cities and counties have gotten skittish about similar payments, though others have continued the practice through sham “service contracts.”
The amendment will reopen the door to sending local sales tax money from poor people to pay the salaries of chamber of commerce executives who lobby for policies contrary to the interest of poor people — against universal health care, against strong workers compensation protection, against unions, for takeover of democratically elected school boards and against just compensation for injury in court, to name a few.
It won’t be called the Corporate Welfare Amendment, though it’s nothing but.
The fat cat machinery is at work to pass this thing. Records on file at the Ethics Commission include those of “Jobs for Arkansans.” The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Economic Developers kicked in an initial $20,000. Much more is to come. Hugh McDonald, former Entergy CEO, is chair. Randy Zook, state chamber boss, is vice chair. The first jobs to be created by this amendment will be rehiring of peoople laid off at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce thanks to the successful lawsuit.
Be interesting to see if the Koch-heads at Americans for Prosperity mean what they say about corporate welfare and rise up against this waste of taxpayer money.