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"I have always thought a referral to the voters for a highway plan that involves new revenues is the best option."

--Gov. Asa Hutchinson

This is not--repeat, not--an endorsement of a tax increase bill. Not for highways nor anything else. Because there isn't an actual bill for such a thing, not that we're aware of. The big news coming out of the General Assembly this week isn't a tax cut bill per se, but whether lawmakers have the duty, right or burden to send such an increase to We the People.

A couple dozen lawmakers--the paper counted 23--signed some sort of pledge against tax increases with the Grover Norquist group before the elections. Some of those lawmakers extrapolated that pledge to mean that they can't even vote for a bill that asks voters what they think. That seems a stretch.

Not that the voters are always right. We the People approved casino gambling, the lottery, "medical" marijuana and another minimum wage increase. But this state's motto is Regnat populus, the people rule. When it comes to their highways, and their taxes, they should be allowed to do so.

Have you driven from Arkadelphia to Little Rock lately? Or through Jacksonville? Or down the many highways that more resemble cheese graters in this state? There might be a good many voters who'd vote to improve the roads. (The Department of Transportation estimates that it'll need more than $478 million over the next 10 years.)

And even the Republican governor of Arkansas is throwing more than a little cover. After all, it'd be hard to accuse the Legislature of raising taxes at this point because so many taxes have been cut in the last three years.

Here is an expert on the subject, both of highways and politics in this state, Mike Holcomb, the House Public Transportation Committee chairman: "I am going to put it this way: I am not against doing a referral to the people and them make a decision on highways."

And: "The governor wants to do the referral and I think that's what is going to happen."

For those who still shake in their boots when Americans For Tax Reform comes a-calling, we give them the exact quote in Tuesday's paper from the one and only Grover Norquist: "The commitment is to the voters and the people of Arkansas," he told our reporter, referring to the pledge. "The argument is going to be with the people of Arkansas--not me."

Exactly.

If the people want to spend more of their money to get to work without spilling coffee all over the car, they should get to make that decision. Or vote the whole thing down in agitation about government spending.

Either way they go, how is asking them the fault of any lawmaker?

Or a fault at all?

Editorial on 01/23/2019

Print Headline: We the People

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