- Trump's 'deal' on wall and dreamers is no bargain
- An open line for reproductive justice
- Cotton, Boozman propose estate tax bonanza for billionaires
- South Carolina couple identified in West Memphis police shooting
- State employees gear up to fight reduction in retirement benefits
- Governor names Chuck Banks, Jan Zimmerman to state pay commission
- Gilbert Baker will have court-appointed attorney
Posted: 19 Jan 2019 01:42 PM PST
Donald Trump unveiled his great plan today — temporary protection for "dreamers" and other immigrants in return for $5.7 billion worth of wall — but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already said it falls short and some on his side don't like it either
Trump expressed little concern for the hundreds of thousands stressed by cutoff paychecks and government services. Reopening government should be the first order of business.
The Democrats in the House will again pass a group of spending bills previously endorsed by Senate Republicans to operate
Hard-core right-wingers don't like even temporary protection for immigrants. They call it amnesty, though Trump offers no path to legal status. Trump, as one put it, is offering a hostage-release demand to the child in government custody. Give him his wall and he'll set them free — for a bit. For comic relief from one of the Trump influencers:
Posted: 19 Jan 2019 01:29 PM PST
Rain drove the speakers inside to the old Senate chamber at the state Capitol, but the rally for reproductive justice went on today as does the fight in a state where the majority who assemble at the Capitol most often act to restrict women's medical rights. The line is open on this and other topics.
Posted: 19 Jan 2019 06:32 AM PST
Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman are dishonestly touting a proposal to cut the estate tax even further than it was cut in 2017 as a benefit for farmers when it's an enormous windfall for superwealthy and would affect precious few farmers. It would be worth billions, for example, to heirs of the Walmart fortune.
Cotton and Boozman have joined Sen. Roy Blunt in legislation to cut the top estate tax rate from 40 percent to 20 percent.
The estate tax already totally exempts the first $11.4 million in net assets for an individual and $22.8 million for a married couple.
Among the tax breaks extended to the wealthy in 2017 legislation in addition to the higher exemption were: Preservation of the stepped-up basis of capital assets for heirs (that Walmart stock acquired for pennies passes to heirs at the greatly increased value today); provisions for gifts to trusts; leveraging gifts to pay for life insurance to offset taxes; enabling philanthropic gifts.
Only about 2,000 estates nationwide owed estate taxes in 2018, according to the Tax Policy Center. No more than a couple dozen owed estate taxes in Arkansas, which also has no state estate tax. Cotton touted his legislation on Twitter this way:
This week I introduced a bill with @JohnBoozman and @RoyBlunt to reduce the estate tax by 20%, helping Arkansas farmers preserve their family legacies and way of life.This isn't about farmers. Unless you're a chicken farmer named Tyson.
Despite years of searching, the farm lobby has been unable to find a "family farm"
lost to estate taxes. Estate planning is available to pay taxes in rare cases where it's due and farmers have enjoyed preferential treatment in tax payments to further preserve their holdings. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says only 20 farms and "small businesses" owed any estate tax nationwide in 2017.
Remember that $22.8 million exemption. For the estate of a married land-poor farmer (no assets except land) to owe taxes under the current system, he or she'd have to own 7,000 acres of good cropland (worth $3,200 an acre) free and clear of any debt to be facing any estate tax. FREE AND CLEAR. If you have 7,000 acres with no debt, I'm guessing you're not struggling to make a payment on a new F-150. The same is true for a "small business" owner — an asset is only taxable after it's worth $22 million after any debt and other adjustments to value. This gives
In Twitter parlance, Cotton is getting "ratioed" with overwhelming putdown responses to his dishonest crocodile tears Tweet for the small farmers.
A point of arithmetic: Cotton is reducing the estate tax top rate by 20 percentage points, but that's a 50 percent reduction in the tax. In 2018, the U.S. collected $14 billion from the relative handful of super wealthy people who owed estate taxes. Cotton would cut it roughly to $7 billion.
Another point of simple arithmetic overlooked by Cotton: The effective tax rate is only about 16.5 percent, according to the CBPP, because of the rich initial exemption. The top tax rate only applies on value above the exemption level.
Cotton and Boozman prefer to tax work, not wealth. (I know they'd like to cut the income tax, too. Can we tax beans and rice enough to pay for the defense budget Cotton prefers?)
Posted: 19 Jan 2019 05:43 AM PST
The State Police say
The case remains under investigation and State Police provided no further details.
Reports earlier said West Memphis police gave chase after a car in which Rivera and Brown were riding wouldn't stop for a police check. The car was reportedly stolen in South Carolina. The chase proceeded through West Memphis and police reportedly opened fire after the car struck a police officer.
Six West Memphis officers have been placed on leave while the case is investigated.
Posted: 18 Jan 2019 02:29 PM PST
The Arkansas State Employees Association is gearing up to oppose legislation that would reduce their retirement benefits and likely require increased employee contributions as well.
The board of the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System has already voted to recommend changes that would end the guaranteed annual 3 percent cost of living adjustment, which is compounded annually. In its place would be the ability of the board to pay less, maybe nothing, and take the Consumer Price Index into account. Any increases would not be compounded. It also wants to reduce interest paid on employee contributions, change the formula on figuring retirement to produce a 5 percent reduction in payments and increase employee contributions from 5 to 6 percent of pay.
Shell bills have been filed to alter terms of other public retirement systems as well — highway, State Police, judicial and teachers. The steps are being taken to reduce unfunded liabilities of the system that otherwise can be met should shortages arise by increased state contributions.
Said an ASEA notice to employees:
ASEA is ready to defeat the proposal to reduce state employees' retirement Cost of Living Adjustment!
Posted: 18 Jan 2019 02:19 PM PST
Gov. Asa Hutchinson today named two members of the independent commission that sets his pay and that of other constitutional officers, legislators
Hutchinson named Little Rock lawyer Chuck Banks, previously an appointee by the late Chief Justice Jim Hannah, and Jan Zimmerman of Little Rock, who has led the Governor's Mansion Association. They succeed, respectively, Larry Ross and Barbara Graves, whose terms expired.
Terms are up of appointees of the House speaker and Senate president but neither Speaker Matthew Shepherd nor Senate President Pro Tem Jim Hendren has announced his choice for seats. Chief Justice Dan Kemp recently named retired Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck to the commission to succeed Banks.
The Commission, now four years old, meets annually to recommend pay raises for state officeholders. After approval of the amendment in 2014, the commission passed out a major pay increase to all those covered, but since then has generally followed increases for other state employees, including one year with no change in pay levels.
Posted: 18 Jan 2019 02:10 PM PST
Federal Magistrate Patricia Harris today said former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker was entitled to a court-appointed lawyer in the bribery case against him because of financial circumstances. She named Blake Hendrix to represent Baker, who'll make an initial appearance in court next week.
Baker is accused of participating in a conspiracy to bribe then-Circuit Judge Mike Maggio to reduce a jury damage award (by $4.2 million) in a nursing home negligence case. Maggio is serving a 10-year term. The bribe allegedly took the form of campaign contributions Baker arranged from the owner of the nursing home, Michael Morton. Morton admits making campaign contributions to Maggio and many other judges, but said no action by Maggio was anticipated in return. He has not been charged.
Baker has worked as a lobbyist and political consultant and retains tenure as a music faculty member at UCA. The judge said in today's order:
Based upon the completed affidavit or testimony of defendant Gilbert R Baker, concerning their financial ability to employ counsel, Gilbert R Baker is entitled to counsel, but cannot afford to hire a private lawyer.The order today was preceded this week by several filings under seal in Baker's case, including his financial affidavit.
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