Leader Blues

Monday, April 23, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Dividing spoils

Lawmakers and the lawyers appear to have worked out an arrangement that will keep the money flowing from General Improvement Funds into our communities without violating the state Constitution against directly funding local projects. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but it looks like it might make just about everybody happy, even the courts, although a few disappointed lawmakers think they’ve been shortchanged.

You’re always going to have some complainers, but even former Rep. Mike Wilson of Jacksonville, who challenged GIFs in court, says he’s happy with the way the system has been reformed and probably will not file another lawsuit.

Legislative leaders tried hard to work within constitutional guidelines and divide some $52 million in pork for local projects as fairly as they could and pass muster in court, even if some lawmakers felt they were left out of the loop when the money was carved up for the folks back home.

Although lawmakers insist that everyone got a fair shake and no one was rebuffed over their political loyalties or disloyalties, it still appears that some veteran legislators did better than others.

Maybe we’re just suspicious by nature and should accept Rep. Will Bond’s explanation that no one put the hurt on Jacksonville just because he opposed Rep. Benny Petrus for House Speaker. There was an equitable formula for cities and counties, Bond says, although counties still have to decide what to do with their funds.

That said, it appears that some veteran lawmakers, like Sen. Bobby Glover of Carlisle, did exceedingly well with the latest GIF formula. Now, maybe he was helping other lawmakers get money for their communities and received the credit for it, but it helps to have seniority like Glover, who knows how to turn on the spigot.

Unless the Arkansas Supreme Court decides all GIFs are unconstitutional — because no matter how you divide the money, it still smacks of special local legislation, contrary to the Constitution — the new spoils system does appear to have a good chance of surviving future challenges.