• Jon B. Comstock

Why I am voting NO on Issues 1, 2 and 3.

Monday Matters - September 21| - Voting NO on Issues 1, 2 and 3. Why?

I fully understand that the Arkansas Legislators have already played their role when they voted to submit Issues 1, 2 and 3 to the people for a vote on November 3, 2020 ballot. However, as a candidate for House District 96, I am routinely asked “how will you vote” on these issues.

Citizens, I will vote NO on each Issue and I encourage you to do likewise. Partial reasons:

Issue No. 1 – A new 0.5% sales tax. Issue 1 intends to amend our State Constitution to provide a stream of revenue to the Department of Transportation by assessing a PERMANENT 0.5% sales tax on most goods other than food. Several aspects of this effort are objectionable. First and foremost, it is unfair for the Legislature and others to insist that this is not a new tax. When the 0.5% tax was first agreed to by voters, we were told in 2012 that it was a “temporary” tax due to expire shortly. Now they talk in terms of “continuing” the tax but insist that it is not a new obligation. Consider. If my home mortgage was due to be paid in full on November 3, and my mortgage company calls and tells me that they have elected to continue the monthly payment indefinitely, would that not a new and unplanned obligation? Of course it would. Legislators need to be transparent with us as to what they are doing.

Yes, we need funds for roads, highways and bridges. But it should come from revenue raised by an up or down vote by elected representatives, doing the very job they were elected to do. Don’t amend the Constitution, but educate the public why a certain tax is needed and then pass a law to impose it. If you can’t justify it to the people then don’t support it. But don’t engage in a misinformation campaign in an effort to have the people impose the tax directly upon themselves (and in the process effectively preclude the development of alternative transportation models).

Issue No. 2 – Another “Chance” card for so-called term limits. This issue is a convoluted parsing of existing laws governing term limits, which has the result of favoring again the incumbents. Rather than creating real limits, the Legislature wants has come up with language that will allow them to further “game” the system. Which by the way, is their intent. I listened to part of the Legislative debate on this issue. The only reason it’s even on the ballot, is because the Legislature miscalculated. They thought there was going to be a genuine citizen-sponsored initiative (that scared the heck out of them) and their strategy to nullify that effort was to confuse the voters by submitting their own option. As it turns out, the citizens were not able to move forward so now the Legislature has to half-heartedly support their own proposal. But will they admit it? Certainly not.

Issue No 3 – Brings an abrupt halt to most citizen-initiated law making! Right now, the Legislature is allowed to submit up to three issues on any general ballot – yet they are NOT required to have a title name that fully explains the gist of their proposal. For example, Issue 1 never tells the voter that the 0.5% tax will be permanent. Yet, for citizen proposals, the Legislature has previously created substantial obstacles to any such efforts. That is why you routinely see the Arkansas Supreme Court knock off citizen issues from the ballot, just as they have done this election season. If that were not bad enough, Issue 3 adds even more bureaucratic red tape with the goal of snuffing out citizen proposals. This is in direct opposition to the citizen-led efforts that enacted Medical Marijuana and raised the Minimum Wage.

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© Jon Comstock  for Arkansas 2020

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