The Over Reach Tax (ORT Tax Special Election)–May 22, 2012)

by Christine Keller

The “takers” in Arkansas are promoting yet another “special election” to force you to pay for their great idea, except this time there isn’t even a great idea. They are becoming more bold now, and this nonsense must stop. This time, they want a 1/4-cent Washington County sales tax to supposedly pay for Ozark Regional Transit’s bus sytem.
Except, nothing in the wording of the resolution as passed by the quorum court actually requires the funds to go to ORT. So where is the money going? We are simply supposed to trust them because they mean well. It’s only a quarter of a cent, they tell us.  That “1/4 cent” adds up to over $7.5 million of your money EVERY YEAR with no plan to spend it. Do we really need to waste this much money? Right now?
The original premise for putting it on the ballot in the first place, which was the impending loss of federal subsidies, has been proven false. Not only will they not lose their federal funding, but they will likely actually end up with more than they had before. So it is patently false to say that bus service will be lost without this tax. That lie was still being perpetuated by supporters of the tax at the Washington County Quorum Court at the third reading on March 8, 2012, by people who adamantly believe they are entitled to your money. ORT actually bussed in people in wheelchairs to make that case before the quorum court!

So the truth is, this special election is not about anyone losing bus service. Even ORT has been forced to admit that. It is actually about ORT wanting to take more than $7.5 million dollars of your money to use for expansion or spend as it pleases. They actually made the claim before the court that people in rural parts of the county are calling and being turned down for bus service. Really? Then why did the Lincoln bus route get cancelled due to lack of riders?  Why are we observing, on a daily basis, empty or nearly empty buses being driven around Fayetteville/Springdale? How will even more empty buses help the environment that many bus supporters claim to be helping?

If there really is a demand for bus service in rural parts of the county, as ORT is claiming, then it is entirely possible to find a way to take care of that without spending this much money. Does anyone really believe there is a large enough demand for bus service in rural areas to justify this much spending?

ORT and NWACC and others have been working on this/planning this for most of a year, and they have been using public money to advocate for more taxes. They have an advertising budget and organization in place to turn out their voters while ordinary taxpayers don’t have the means to reach people with the facts. This is why our side must be motivated to vote.

Excessive “special elections” are draining the people of Washington County and Arkansas dry, and we cannot keep throwing more money at every “good idea” that some special interest wants everyone else to pay for. Between this tax and the state-wide tax coming up in November, if these taxes pass, some parts of the state will be paying ten percent sales tax, which is totally unreasonable considering Arkansas’s already high property and income taxes. Surrounding states with lower tax rates are attracting people who choose to live, shop, and set up businesses where the taxes are lower.
Make sure you vote on May 22. Vote for accountability and common sense by voting NO to the 1/4-cent sales tax.
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