Word comes from the Capitol that the Koch-financed political operators are pushing hard for the legislature to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of non-germane legislation to provide a $5 milllion tax break for suppliers of fracking sand and other similar material used to prop open fissures in rock to drill for gas and oil. Simple question: Why do these professed constitutionalists hate the Arkansas Constitution?
The fiscal session is, by constitutional edict, only about fiscal matters. Other legislation may be considered by a two-thirds vote of both chambers. But the Republican majority prefers to dispense with the law. It prefers extralegal abuse of the “special language” process to mold and shape the law as needed. That’s what Sen. Jonathan Dismang, who leads the fracker caucus, used to extend a tax break on fracking sand. The state has collected the sales tax on material used in drilling for years, including sand. But a lawsuit by a Swiss drilling industry giant, Weatherford, won a ruling from Circuit Judge Tim Fox that sand could be construed as “equipment” and thus is exempt from the sales tax. The state disagrees and wants to appeal. Dismang wants to moot that legal action by clearly providing the tax break. Well and good.
What’s odd is why Dismang insisted on an extralegal means to this end. He insists this is just a little ol’ clarification. No, it’s an unconstitutional end-around. He should have asked for two-thirds approval to consider non-germane legislation and called the roll on the bill. It might well have passed. It might pass in January if the override fails today. The battle is in the House. An override will fly out of the Senate, which Dismang will lead next year. Most House members are expected to be present to vote on the next House speaker. The voting lines are not necessarily strictly partisan on this issue though Republican shills are trying to pitch it that way. Some Republican’s don’t want to override. Some Democrats do. The farther you live from the shale the better you understand what a poor bargain that exploration has been for a lot of the state and thus are more reluctant to bestow more favors on the already under-taxed frackers.
Here in Arkansas we are blind beyond our borders. Legislators really believe a marginal tax on sand could somehow affect gas exploration in Arknasas. It’s a global market with widely varying rules. As I noted yesterday, Texas taxes the hell out of every aspect of exploration, including sand, because politicians have found it a more palatable way to finance government than an income tax. Arkansas politicians prefer to impose no taxes and pray for a miracle to pay for roads, environmental regulation, schools and all the other public endeavors beggared by selling out to immensely profitable energy companies.
But again: Why do the constitutional originalists in the Koch lobby like consitutions so much except when they apply to them?