by Mark Moore
Governor Mike Beebe got Medicaid expansion passed through the Senate by acceding to the wishes of a single legislator (Sen. Jane English (R) of Little Rock) as to how tens of millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent, and diverting several million dollars from the “Rainy Day Fund” and “General Revenues” without the specific approval of the overall legislature.
If all that is legal, it shouldn’t be. What a chicken-scat way to run a state government. Just do whatever gets you what you want now, regardless of how much damage the precedent will do to the state in the future.
The bill has not passed the house as I write this, but Beebe minion (even though he is a Republican) House Speaker Davy Carter is forcing the House to vote on the exact same bill over and over until it passes. Again, what a chicken-scat way to run state government. Obviously, they are working to see who they can bribe or bully into voting for the exact same bill the member opposed four times before.
OK, Mark, you say they are doing it the wrong way. What is the right way to do it? If you claim they are unprincipled in the way they pass legislation, then what is the principled way? Here I will defer to a definition provided by our Secretary of State. Secretary of State Mark Martin understands what “compromise” on legislation means under principled governance:
True political compromise is not achieved by individual politicians abandoning or changing their principles due to positive or negative incentives external to the bill being considered. True political compromise is only achieved when the bill being considered is sufficiently changed to reflect the principles of a sufficient number of politicians the electorate chose. To insist upon re-voting on the exact same bill repeatedly is to insist that those voting compromise their principles rather than the bill itself compromise to reflect those principles.
“Principled Governance” is something this state has never had a surplus of, and it is scarcer now than ever. The ruling class in this state has consistently gotten bills passed in unprincipled ways. It is worse here than in many states, in my view. Certainly the bribery with tax dollars is more open here than elsewhere.
Corruption has consequences. Arkansas should be one of the most prosperous states in this nation. We have a wide array of natural sources, including oil, gas, and timber. We have a hard working population with below-average wages and cost of living. We are centrally located and have an excellent system of waterways. When any entity underperforms over a long period of time, it is invariably the fault of those who are running it. The ruling class of Arkansas has been holding the state back. The private option fiasco has been just one example.
In an atmosphere of taxpayer-financed payoffs it costs a lot more money than it should to get anything passed. This is because the expectation is that there will be pay-offs external to the bill being considered. This only encourages more hold-outs to make even more demands. This drastically drives up the cost of governing even as it reduces the efficiency of governing. In the short term it looks like Gov. Mike Beebe “got something done”. But he did it in a manner which accelerates the structural rot in our whole system.