Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

EDITORIAL>>It's lieutenant, sir

Their debate Monday night may not have been exciting — it was not televised and was witnessed by a handful of people besides their cheerleaders — but at least the candidates for lieutenant governor provide a refreshing contrast.

Bill Halter of North Little Rock, the Democrat, tried to emphasize Sen. Jim Holt’s extremist nature, and the Republican was very cooperative. Other Republican candidates and the Republican governor himself are shying away from Holt, but the polls show that he has the best chance of any of them to win.

Halter said Holt was the only senator of either party to vote against raising the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years, and Holt was virtually alone in opposing some school appropriations, including funds for early childhood programs. Nearly every lawmaker in both parties and candidates for state office embrace early childhood training. Holt calls the minimum wage and pre-kindergarten schooling “socialism.”

They had no real disagreement about state taxes except the amount of them. Holt said Arkansas ranked fourth in the country in per-capita taxes. Halter said he left off a digit: It was 40th, according to the conservative Tax Foundation. We think the Tax Foundation’s figures are jiggered and that the ranking is actually lower than that.

Holt said he would fight to lower taxes. Both made a lot of promises about their stands when they reach office. No one reminded them that they are running not to be governor but lieutenant governor, whose sole constitutional duty is to preside impartially when the state Senate is in session. He cannot sponsor bills and he must remain neutral on the issues before the Senate.