$100 million for Chinese communists but not a cent for poor people to send their kids on field trips. That’s the bottom line on the Arkansas legislature this year.
You know about the Arkansas legislature’s love of corporate welfare, including for Chinese communists who want to burn trees for electricity and send pulp to China to make paper. The other side of our generosity is the Joint Budget Committee’s vote today to approve Republican Rep. Jim Dotson’s attempt to make it more difficult for recipients of temporary cash assistance for needy families to spend it on anything but expenses that Dotson approves of. The measure had been defeated once previously, but it got approval in Joint Budget today, which means it’s headed to law unless Democrats try to stop a budget bill, as Republicans did on Arkansas Works. I suspect the governor has no sops to offer Democrats who might dig in their heels here, as Bart Hester did on Medicaid expansion. Functional bribes are offered those opposing help for the poor in today’s Arkansas, not to those on the other side. Remember the next time somebody tries to tell you about Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s moderation that this kind of thinking would not happen without his support.
As Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families explained several days ago, this was a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. It will make it harder for poor families to have cash for emergency needs. The good news is that the federal government may not approve this lash of the poor. Arkansas Advocates commented earlier:
The adoption of today’s amendment, which will likely be considered sometime in the next 24 hours, is just another episode in the Arkansas legislature’s ongoing attack on the poor, especially our poorest families receiving TANF. During the 2015 session, the legislature passed legislation requiring drug testing for adults receiving TANF benefits. Bills such as these are insulting and demeaning to Arkansas’s poorest families who are just trying to meet their basic needs and take care of their children. They serve no real purpose, budgetary or otherwise.
But $100 million for communist Chinese to come cut some of our overabundance of pine trees? Come on down.
Dotson offered no evidence of abuse. A family of three that qualifies can get $204 a month. He’d limit expenditures to food, clothing, housing, utilities, child care and incidental expenses related to transportation and health care costs, but not, for example, incidental school expenses. He’d also prevent withdrawal of cash to pay expenses, but allow only direct payments with the assistance card. If an emergency need arises where the card isn’t accepted? Tough.
UPDATE: Here’s the House roll call on the 64-28 vote adding the amendment. Some shameful Democrats didn’t vote — same as a no but cowardly in this case unless they really were absent.