Yes, I’ve been rather hard on my old friend the governor the last couple of weeks.
Mike Beebe’s passive, philosophy-devoid style of governing in the face of a troglodytic overthrow of reason — not to mention his throwing in on a grocery-tax alliance with the chief troglodyte. . . well, some people have told me that was disrespectfully derisive of me the other day to call him “Mikey.”
It was just frustration, I think. Anyway, it was better than his real name, Mickey Dale. Those real names will get you in Arkansas, said Johnny Ray the columnist.
I do not think it was as bad as referring to Mike Huckabee as “Wide Body” or Bill Clinton as “Slick Willie.”
So you know. . . get over it.
But one thing I can do is take note when a combative pulse is detected at long last in the governor.
It happened Tuesday, I’m advised, when Mikey spoke at a “Razorback luncheon” to a bevy of University of Arkansas people in connection with “Razorback Day” at the Capitol.
That was when all the politicos got to touch Bret Bielema, the only undefeated football coach in the history of the University of Arkansas.
What the governor indicated to the group is that ths Legislature is going to get on the fighting side of him, not on abortion or guns, but when it moves later in the session on state Rep. Charlie Collins’ bill to rearrange the state income tax rates in a way that would (1) make them fairer to the middle class, but (2) lower them needlessly on elite income as well, and (3) have the general budget effect of reducing the state Treasury.
What always happens when state general revenues get reduced, Beebe told the group, is that colleges and universities take the hit.
And he said he’s going to fight it.
He won’t even push his own grocery tax drawdown unless certain anticipated new revenue flows occur. And while it apparently was out of the question that he might stand up publicly in an anticipatory way to resist this fetus and gun madness, it is entirely appropriate in his mind to stand up publicly in an anticipatory way and warn these yahoos not to send him something untenable on the budget.
His passion politically? Well, there seem to be two. One is that he just loves fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets and avoiding shortfalls. He goes wobbly-kneed over that. The other is that he didn’t have much chance in life until Arkansas State University educated him and the University of Arkansas Law School made him a lawyer, and he wants to use his governorship to protect and advance higher education as much as he can.
I remember when he was president pro tem of the Senate, and he took me into his office to show me how he’d found a little change under the sofa cushions of state government and intended to insist that it all go to colleges and unversities.
But he’s right that if the Republicans reduce income tax revenue into the General Fund, the following will happen: Public schools will get theirs because there’s a court ruling. Medicaid will get its because it has an untenable shortfall already. Prison will get theirs because there is an interest in keeping bad people in jail as much as we can afford.
That leaves college and universities on the theory that they can raise tuition if it comes to that, even as we reduce scholarships under the struggling lottery.
So if we can ever get past the gun and abortion madness and get down to mathematics, this governor appears ready finally to engage actively in what some people call public policy debate.
I look forward.