Help teachers? May be later
The thing about Beebe’s State Senator Jonathan Dismang is that it doesn’t make him any less conservative to be low-key, responsible, reasonable, and able to solve problems.
In the age of conservatism gone mad, sane conservatives may come to be seen as moderate when they are not.
Dismang will tell you right away that with the state having a $1.6 billion surplus and over $1 billion in accumulated reserves, the legislature he helps lead will be comfortable when special session next month only to reduce income by reducing income. taxes. But it won’t be comfortable, he says, to increase spending such as increasing teachers’ salaries.
It’s quite sensible and classically conservative.
It is simply a choice, a question of philosophical priority. It is a question of whether to use this windfall to froth high-income taxpayers with maximum reduction, or to make a major investment in the modernization of the teaching profession – which has done a dangerous double job, in the classroom and online, during the pandemic, and who has come to reside in a sort of modern American killing field.
Dismang says we have sufficient reserves to sustain future budgets if we hit a recession after we’ve built in a tax cut into the state government’s ongoing revenue stream.
So he is perfectly willing to tap into the reserves later if necessary to keep teacher salaries roughly where they are now if we have a budget shortfall, but not by tapping into those reserves later to support teacher salaries. greatly improved that we would now oblige ourselves with the revenue from these surplus funds.
Neighboring states, none of which are gardens of learning or progress, have recently invested more in teacher compensation than Arkansas. Here, teachers are leaving the classroom in greater numbers for sensible and obvious reasons. These include the state’s likely next governor tweeting that the schools aren’t doing a very good job of indoctrinating our children with a dreaded teaching of American history.
So it’s safe to say that it was only Dismang’s party shift to an extreme form of resentful conservatism that made you start to see him as something different from the deep conservative he was.
Dismang was a leading young Republican architect of the innovative private option form of Medicaid expansion. He pragmatically accepted big federal dollars, but enforced the element of privatization in how they would be spent.
He served two terms as president pro tem of the Senate and kept the train rolling. Now, he’s Chairman of the Joint Budget Senate and, I think, the first legislative man to deal with the spending or management of that $1.6 billion surplus windfall.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, who may actually be quite moderate, initially suggested that the state make direct payments to fight inflation. Dismang and lawmakers did not like this idea. You see who and what prevailed.
So, Talk Business and Politics went to Dismang for its Sunday show. When Talk Business’ Roby Brock pointed out the risk of making ongoing obligations with excess money and that income tax cuts pose the same kind of risk as teacher increases, Dismang simply said, “The members were comfortable with the prospect of lower incomes, but, again, without increasing current expenditures.”
He said he was worried about unfunded mandates on schools. He did not mention unfunded mandates on the state government, or at least its reservations, to stay above water if a recession worsens a steep income tax cut.
He said teachers’ pay should be deferred for the regular ‘matching study’ to determine the cost of an adequate education. But you could improve the teacher compensation plan on its own merits, for market and fairness reasons, and continue to do the broader matching study.
And Dismang said we really need to address teacher pay gaps as well as incentives to attract teachers to schools in deprived areas. But you don’t need to keep Arkansas teacher salaries below standard in general until you dive into these vital details.
Dismang also said he felt assured that we would address teacher compensation in the January regular session.
I’m glad it’s safe. I’m waiting for the most likely next governor to respond to a relevant policy or question.
In the meantime, it’s just a standard, not extreme conservative thing to want to cut taxes now for sure and raise teachers’ salaries later maybe.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his Twitter feed @johnbrummett.