IS THIS KANSAS: Dorothy wanted to get back there. Me? Not so much.

The morning Arkanas Democrat-Gazette is full of hints that Arkansas is on course to emulate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s catastrophic ideas about government: Cut taxes on the rich, cut government spending and surely prosperity will follow. Hasn’t worked out. Consider Arkansas:

* A “tax reform” (read that tax cutting) legislative task force seems determined to take any gains from making  Internet merchants collect sales taxes on goods bought in Arkansas and apply it to an income tax cut that will be an enormous windfall for the wealthy.  The group heard an estimate of a potential tax gain of $35 million a year, though no one knows for sure. A great deal of the sales are already being taxed, by Amazon and others.


* Gov. Asa Hutchinson is intent on lopping almost 1 percentage point off the top tax rate for those making more than $75,000 a year. That will cost $180 million. About a quarter of it, based on past-year experience, will go to millionaires. Nobody has demonstrated how this will help the economy. See the Trump tax cut. See also the recent flat growth in Arkansas.

* The new college “productivity” formula is working like a charm. Some colleges will get more, some will get less and the community colleges will really suffer. Net result: A recommendation for $563 million in state spending on higher education, a whopping increase of $861,000, not even two-tenths of one percent. (And not even a quarter of what the Razorback football coach just spent on his new house.) The inexorable increase in the cost of doing business will, of course, find its way to students. You may have read yesterday that the percentage of high school grads going on to college is dropping in Arkansas. Anybody think cost might have something to do with it? Anybody want to rethink cutting first-year awards and setting the standards on lottery scholarships at a level that favors higher-income kids who were going to college regardless?


* Gov. Asa Hutchinson is tapping general revenue (the so-called rainy day fund, which is actually a device for the governor to set aside a kitty for his own use, outside of control of the legislature) to come up with $20 million to match available federal highway dollars. This is no way to run a highway budget and it steals resources for all the rest of public services. Not to worry, there’s more spare cash lying around. Medicaid spending is dropping because of various efforts to cut the services and number of people covered by this important support for lower-income people (yes, many work) and children.

* The legislature has regularly cut the legislative staff’s recommendation for public education support necessary to meet the sufficiency standard in the Lakeview ruling. Someday, the beggaring of education will come home to roost as it has in Kansas.


* Our idea of economic development is getting dragged into extortion contests by people like Kimberly Clark, pitting Arkansas against richer Wisconsin over who will pay enough tribute to keep a plant open in Conway. Even billions in handouts to Chinese communists haven’t delivered promised jobs yet, thanks in part to Donald Trump’s trade war.

A recent CNBC survey ranked Arkansas at the top of the charts (cheap) in the cost of doing business and the cost of living. And still we persist in thinking that we must give away still more, rather than investing in the things that make great places for businesses to locate: Public schools, great universities, infrastructure, aesthetic attractions, a demonstrated ethos that people matter more than corporations.