The two most misleading statements made by liberal Arkansas Legislators are: (1) “I balanced the state budget”; and (2) “I cut taxes by so many dollars!”
If you are not familiar with the liberal’s record you might be fooled into thinking the candidate is a conservative. The higher these two statements are on the liberal’s list of accomplishments, the more likely the candidate is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. The first claim is meaningless. The second claim often just means – “I’ve been in the legislature several years.”
THE “I BALANCED THE BUDGET” DECEPTION
Even the most liberal tax and spend Democrat alive who served in the Arkansas legislature can say: “I balanced the budget every year.”
Arkansas has a mechanism to ensure that it does not spend more General Revenue than it takes in. The mechanism is called the Revenue Stabilization Act and was adopted way back in 1973. Under the Revenue Stabilization Act, state spending is cut back when not enough money comes in to fully fund the budget. The act sets up priorities so that the top priorities are funded first and are cut last in a budget shortfall. The legislature decides which items get priority. So the budget is ALWAYS balanced.
Here is what they avoid telling you.
- Even with a “balanced budget,” liberal projects can get priority over essential items. Then we hear that the sky is falling because we don’t have enough money for jails, teacher salaries, etc. Not convinced? Call some County Sheriffs and ask two questions: (1) Do you house state prisoners in the county jail; and (2) How far behind is the state on reimbursing you for housing their prisoners. Sorry, liberal priorities get paid first, and counties can wait.
- Despite a “balanced budget” state expenditures keep increasing. (See Chart)[i]
- When someone claims he or she held the budget to only a minor increase, you need to know if they are talking about a pie-in-the-sky budget or actual state expenditures, because you can cut a budget and still spend more money than you did the year before.
- The state budget process is not about how much money an agency needs. The budget process starts off with what the agency was budgeted the previous year and the legislature decides how much of an increase all agencies should get and whether certain agencies should receive even more to address certain issues. Doing business this way guarantees that expenditures will go up as long as there is money in the treasury…. And counties are still waiting to get paid for housing state prisoners.
I have pointed my finger at liberals (Democrats), who tout balancing the budget in order to fool conservative voters, but you will see the claim on Republican campaign literature, too. My advice to you is to ignore it, and look at the rest of their record.
THE “I CUT TAXES BY THIS AMOUNT” DECEPTION
Tax cuts are great in my book! But, the claim “I cut taxes by this amount” often doesn’t mean much. A dollar amount may be a better indicator that the legislator has been in office for several year, than an indication on whether he or she reduced or increased the burden on taxpayers. The claim only gives one side of the balance sheet, and you need more information to know where the candidate really stands.
Imagine a company with a billion dollars in sales. Sounds great, but without knowing its expenses and liabilities, the sales numbers don’t mean anything. The same is true with tax cut numbers. Great, you voted for tax cuts. Now, candidate, tell me this:
- Did you vote for new or increased taxes (whether the taxes passed or not)? The huge increase in cigarette tax of 2009 and the proposed Milk Tax (which failed) both come to mind.
- How much more money did you obligate taxpayers to pay in the future with new programs? For example, did you vote for the Obamacare Private Option?
- Who benefited from the tax cuts?
- Name the tax cuts and the year.
- Some tax cut bills pass by a huge margin, and some people tend to join a tsunami vote. So how many tax cuts did you vote for where the vote margin was close?
Again, tax cuts are a great thing. Just be sure that when someone gives you a dollar amount of tax cuts he or she voted for, that you get the full picture and find out the full balance. The person making the claim could be conservative or just a liberal who is trying to fool you with a one-sided record. A key question, did the candidate reduce overall state spending?
When someone says: “I balanced the Arkansas budget,” ignore it. It doesn’t mean a thing.
When someone says “I cut taxes by this amount,” ask about the candidate’s votes to impose or increase taxes and if the candidate voted for programs that will obligate the state to spend more money in the future. If the statements are posted at the top of the candidate’s list, it probably is to convince people that he or she is moderate, not liberal, and the candidate probably has some swamp land to sell you, too.
Oh by the way, you can’t tell a conservative just by his or her support for gun rights bills. Only a few Democrats dared to vote against the gun rights bills in 2013. All the rest were in districts where they knew a vote against gun rights would be political suicide. Way to put the pressure on! Good job, voters! Now, hold them accountable on budget matters too!
[i] Selected Financial Data For Arkansas October 2012, Bureau of Legislative Research, page 14 (Chart titled “GROSS STATE TREASURY RECEIPTS FROM ALL SOURCES AND TOTAL EXPENDITURES OF ALL AGENCIES – FISCAL YEARS 1973-74 THROUGH 2011-2012