BY MELANIE BUCK –
Arkansas voters will decide on whether there should be a removal on the cap of state-issued bonds on the November 2016 General Election Ballot. Also known as Ballot Issue 3, The Arkansas Removal of Cap on State-Issued Bonds Amendment is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, meaning it was placed on the ballot at the request of the Arkansas Legislature and would revise Amendment 82 of the Arkansas Constitution.
Specifically, Issue 3 deals with Super Project Obligation Bonds that finance economic development projects that currently have a cap of $250 million. Approval of the measure would remove the cap and allow larger bond issues for private development. Issue 3 would also allow municipal governments to appropriate funds for economic development projects to firms or individuals.
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s 2016 Ballot Issue Guide summarized proponents’ arguments in five bullet points:
The University of Arkansas 2016 Ballot Issue Guide condensed both the arguments for Issue 3 and those against Issue 3 as follows:
“The constitution includes a patchwork of economic development language and definitions, making it difficult or impossible for local communities to take full advantage of valuable job creation tools. The amendment would clean up those inconsistencies, provide additional opportunities for cities to participate in economic development opportunities and enhance the state’s ability to attract large employers.
Arkansas is at a disadvantage. Our constitution leaves us out of line with other states in this part of the country when it comes to giving communities the ability to engage in economic development efforts.
Removing the cap on the amount of bonds the state could issue would help Arkansas compete for more large projects that could bring hundreds of new jobs to the state.
It would regularize what many municipalities are already doing and clarify what local governments can do to offer incentives to companies.
Being able to spend money locally on economic development would help cities and towns attract businesses and add jobs.”
The opposition is summarized as this:
“It allows local governments to give away taxpayer money to a private corporation, association, institution or individual.
There is no limit on how much state revenue may be pledged to private super projects. Theoretically, the state could approve the use of 100 percent of its general revenues or even more than 100 percent. Just one legislature could ruin the state budget and cause the need for tax increases for years to come.
The proposal’s popular name is deceptive and designed to fool uninformed voters.
Taking money from one business for the benefit of another business is no different than welfare. It’s a form of income redistribution.
This will give you the ability to bankrupt your city. Bad decisions will come back to bite you.
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.”
Two of the Issues that are on the Arkansas ballot were shot down by the Arkansas Supreme Court last week and any votes cast for or against either Issue, will not count in the November election. Issue 4 and Issue 5 were removed on October 13th after Arkansas Supreme Court opinions were released saying they were unconstitutional.
Issue 4 would have Limited Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits. Issue 5 was the Arkansas Casino Amendment, which would have allowed for casinos to be built in certain parts of Arkansas.
The opinions were released after many counties already had their ballots printed, including Polk County. Although Polk County’s ballot will have Issue 4 and 5, however, again, any votes cast for or against those two issues will not count.
To learn more about this year’s ballot candidates and issues, look up: http://www.uaex.edu/business-communities/voter-education/state-ballot-issues.aspx. An unbiased view is included on each topic.