State Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, as affable and bright a chap as you’ll find in the state Legislature, a holder of a master’s degree in economics from George Washington University, worked for several years in product branding for Procter & Gamble.
That doesn’t begin to explain why he sponsored that horrible bill for guns on college campuses. Some things simply evade logical explanation.
He is undeterred on that issue-not to mention in general.
He seemingly is not embarrassed at all, as of course he should be, that every college in the state-even this state, where guns are uncommonly worshipped-exercised his law’s amended option not to permit guns on campus.
But the corporate branding experience does explain why Charlie goes around saying “good jobs magnet” over and over, and then over again.
He learned as a marketing executive that products do better when they have catchy brands and that brands become catchy by repetition, repetition, repetition.
So that makes him more than your garden-variety Reaganesque Republican tax-cutter. It makes him an experienced brander of the concept.
He is obsessed with cutting one tax, the state personal-income tax. He insists businesses will come to Arkansas and make all of us more prosperous if we will systematically draw down our personal-income tax rates.
He says over and over, and then over again, and then he tweets, and then he puts on Facebook, that steady incremental reduction in our personal-income tax rates will be … you guessed it, a “good jobs magnet.”
Now he runs for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. If Bill Halter could create a lottery for college scholarships from that otherwise meaningless office, then Charlie figures he might be able to say “good jobs magnet” more loudly and to more people.
Please understand that Charlie and I go way back, to May 2012.
Charlie loves to hold town meetings in Fayetteville. He loves to invite people of different views to debate him.
Politicians tending as they do to wimpishness, he could find no one willing to stand up in public and argue against income-tax cuts. So he invited me. I went. We filled a room and had a fine time.
“Doesn’t it make you feel good to have been out ahead of this issue?” he asked me Tuesday after he’d chaired a meeting of the Joint Interim Revenue and Taxation Committee.
My position in our debate was that Arkansas is not harmed economically by its income-tax rates; that our unemployment rate has been lower than that of states without income taxes; that we ought to rearrange the high rate to have it kick in at a higher income and raise the rate for elite incomes; that we can brag that we pay the country’s near-lowest local property taxes; that the sales tax is wholly regressive in that it takes a larger share of low incomes than high incomes; and that employers aren’t lined up at our border just dying to come in and hire people as soon as those people would pay fractionally lower income taxes.
Charlie’s side? Well, he knows tax policy and he knows economics.
Those states with higher unemployment rates and no income taxes have larger work forces, he said, which didn’t seem to me like such a good thing. Fewer people with a higher percentage of them employed is better than more people with a lower percentage of them employed-isn’t it?
But mainly I remember Charlie saying “good jobs magnet” a few dozen times.
At this legislative committee meeting Tuesday, Charlie led his colleagues in considering reports produced at his behest by state fiscal officials. These reports centered on Charlie’s contention that we could steadily reduce income-tax rates and absorb the incremental loss of revenue through normal economic growth and not feel a thing.
That’s presumably until 2038 when the tax rate on the highest incomes would be totally eliminated and we’d have so many job magnets that we’d be as big as … why, Texas.
You are aware that Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson wants to push this Collins concoction. You are aware that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross, emulating Mike Beebe, doesn’t want to reduce income taxes unless we actually make up the money with new sources instead of trusting growth and natural dynamism.
So this is going to be a big issue, and I explained in a column Tuesday how it is that Ross is right.
I summed it up this way in a post on Twitter as I sat in on the legislative committee meeting: “If we cut income taxes too much, I worry whether we can afford expense reimbursements for legislators to sit around at meetings like this.”
But the best quote of the day came from Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith, Charlie’s co-chairman and a Republican, no less.
Files said, “I’m somewhat curious as to how cutting our income-tax rates by a tenth of one percent makes us more competitive with Texas, who has no income tax, but who has personal property taxes that are extremely higher than ours are.”
I had to look around a post to make sure that really was a Republican talking.
John Brummett’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at [email protected]. Read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com, or his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.