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We the People: Are elected officials doing what we pay them to do?

April 23, 2013

Have you been paying attention to local and Arkansas state politics? The Arkansas Republican controlled House and Senate are in the process of reducing income taxes for anyone making an adjusted income of $44,000 or more per year. As if that is not bad enough, they are reducing the capital gain taxes for their wealthy friends. So much for supporting Arkansas, middle class and poor residents. Arkansas Republicans campaigned promising to reduce taxes. Truth be told, that is exactly what they are doing for some. They are reducing taxes for the rich and placing additional tax burdens on middle class and poor residents of Arkansas. Do you think they just forgot to mention that shell game during their campaigning?
These same legislators promised to create new jobs in Arkansas. They wasted over a month arguing whether or not to approve $125 million dollars for bonds that will provide loans and help finance a $1.1 billion dollar steel mill. The company says they will create at least 525 permanent jobs in Osceola. Big River Steel says the average wage will be about $75,000. Other new businesses are now planning to open in the area to support the new steel mill, providing more new jobs. This is a no brainier. In March 2007, Governor Mike Beebe created a “Quick Action Closing Fund” to improve our economic development and add a better quality of life for the people of Arkansas. This program has helped retain and expand businesses, as well as attract new companies like Big River Steel. It took awhile to approve these new jobs, but it shows what our State leaders and legislators can do when they work together.
In Saline County, at a recent Quorum Court meeting, newly elected Saline County Treasurer Larry Davis made a startling request. Davis requested over an 11-18 percent raise for two employees in his department. Davis explained the basis for this request was the employees had been given added job responsibilities and needed more training. When asked what these added responsibilities were, Mr. Davis told the Quorum Court the employees needed to perform his job responsibilities. Keep in mind these employees have worked in their positions for years, have received state training and perform their duties very well. It seems Mr. Davis expects his employees to perform his supervisory job, because he stated he is not planning to receive the training himself and has had no previous training. This level of raise is not chump change by any means. One employee position would receive over a $6,000 yearly pay raise, while the other position would receive over a $5,000 yearly pay hike.
This raises the question if Mr. Davis has no treasurer or financial experience and is unwilling to seek training, who is going to oversee the Saline County Treasurer’s office? Is he saying his employees need a raise to manage themselves? Do taxpayers really need a county treasurer position costing them over $73,000 a year? Why did Mr. Davis run for the position, if he does not intend to do the job? Better yet, why did the people of Saline County elect Mr. Davis as treasurer, if he was not qualified for the job? Can Saline County taxpayers afford a high pay increase for these two employees just because Mr. Davis refuses to receive the required training? How can Mr. Davis supervise his department, if he admittedly has no knowledge of what the job requires? Since Mr. Davis requested the pay raise for his employees, other employees from different departments are going to ask for the same raise. Saline County funds are already stretched thin, because of the current economy and recent storm damage.
The reason I have chosen to write on this subject is to point out how important it is to do your own research on candidates, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans, so you can make an informed decision.
This column is not based on my opinion alone; it includes available Internet and media information.

Clark Hopper is a resident of Saline County. His column appears each Saturday in The Saline Courier.

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