Arkansas Legislative Tax Abolishment (2012)

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The Arkansas Legislative Tax Abolishment did not make the November 2, 2010 ballot in the state of Arkansas, but would be refiled in hopes of making it to the November 2012 ballot. That measure never made it to the 2012 ballot either.

The petition drive deadline to submit signatures for 2010 ballot consideration was July 2, 2010.[1][2][3]

The measure was an amendment that “repeals all state taxes and enact a flat rate sales tax”, and was being spearheaded by the Arkansas Progressive Group. The Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved the ballot title on January 7, 2010.[4]

According to reports the measure would have abolished state taxes on certain items and other activities and simply tax people when they chose to make a purchase. It had been described, by reports, as a “super sales tax”. In a column published by the Arkansas News, John Brummett gave arguments for and against the measure when he stated:

  • “The theory is that the utter simplicity would be a virtue. It’s that people would be taxed not as they got richer or acquired more assets, thus partaking in the American dream, but only when they chose to make purchases."
  • "The problem, the unfairness, is that the low-income working man doesn’t exactly choose to make purchases. Sometimes the old car quits running. Sometimes the refrigerator goes out. Sometimes the kid outgrows shoes.”

Text of measure

Summary

The popular name, as approved by the Arkansas Attorney General, read:[5]

“A Constitutional Amendment to Repeal All State Taxes and Establish a Flat Rate Sales tax."

Opposition

Media editorial positions

  • The Arkansas Leader's editorial board stated its opposition to the measure, writing: "First, the popular name seems to be a lie.It says “all state taxes” would be repealed. But when you read the amendment, all state taxes are defined, either by design or ineptness, as only some state taxes — those codified in Title 26 of the Arkansas Code and the Constitution. That covers most of the big taxes, but a hundred or so taxes are codified in other titles. The amendment says that it would specifically repeal “payroll taxes” but Arkansas voters cannot repeal the taxes that are commonly known as payroll taxes, Social Security and Medicare, because they are federal taxes."[6]

Litigation

Brandon Woodrome, director for the group backing the initiative, Arkansas Progressive Group, filed a legal sufficiency challenge on the ballot language with the Arkansas Supreme Court in order to see if the measure's wording was in compliance with state and federal constitutions. The group was technically taking their own ballot language to court, in order to cover every base. According to Woodrome, the group did not want to spend their money, time and effort on the initiative only to have it taken off the ballot by legal action in the weeks leading up to the November election.[7]

The legal sufficiency challenge stemmed from the Arkansas Secretary of State's second opinion of the measure, which stated, "I believe a cautionary note is warranted...You should be aware that according to my experience there is a direct correlation between complexity of initiated constitutional amendments and their susceptibility to a successful ballot title challenge." The opinion also stated that any ambiguities in the ballot language could have lead to a legal challenge, and a successful one at that.

Decision

On May 20, 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that sponsors of the initiative could not file a challenge to their own measure, dismissing the challenge from court. The group opposed to the initiative, Arkansas to Protect Police, Libraries, Education and Services (APPLES), intervened in the case, as allowed by state law, and claimed that the law requesting a review of ballot measure language was not intended for the measure's actual sponsor. The group claimed that if proposal sponsors were able to do this, that would allow for "sham lawsuits." The Supreme Court agreed, with Justice Elana Cunningham stating, "If the statute is construed to allow a sponsor to petition for a declaration of legal sufficiency, then this court could conceivably be put in a position of having to decide the sufficiency of a ballot title without the benefit of any countervailing argument."[8]

See also

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Additional reading

References