My Sunday column analyzes the tyro right-wing Republican Legislature’s sad if remarkable dominance of the old maestro, Mike Beebe.
There’s a metaphor about dogs and pups and nipping and growling.
It’s about Medicaid expansion and tax cuts.
Now we might be able to add the steel mill.
Yesterday legislators received the executive summary of one of two consultant reports on whether it is a good and prudent deal for the state — as the Beebe administration proposes — to use Amendment 82 to sell $125 million in bonds to deliver the money over time to a steel mill near Osceola that proposes to invest $1.1 billion and employ more than 500 people at wages averaging $70,000 a year.
It’s a “super project,” the state’s first.
Alas, these kinds of semi-socialist undertakings — state taxpayer non-equity investments in otherwise private projects — are the norm anymore at least in your needier Southern states where education and quality of life don’t seem to be enough.
The executive summary says, if I might summarize and paraphrase liberally, that the Arkansas Economic Development Department’s projections are possibly too rosy because someone unexpected might enter the steel manufacturing industry and production might not always be as bountiful as expected and the state might not get as much in taxes and economic performance as the department says and that might make the cost-benefit ratio decidedly less appealing.
I had been unaware that consultants’ reports were hedged like that to near-pointlessness, but I’m advised that they routinely are.
Anyway, legislators, especially Republicans, were buzzing that, man, this may not be a good deal.
There are no guarantees in life or business. And there are, in fact, two great risks here.
One is that the state invests in this project and the project goes sour and the state can’t get all its money back. Egg on face. Poor old Arkansas, taken for a ride, unable to win for losing.
The other is that the state turns this thing down and it goes to Mississippi and becomes the most thriving steel operation in the world. Poor old Arkansas, unable to win for losing.
So I put out a tweet last night saying it would be a “remarkable story indeed” if the state turned down this project.
House Speaker Davy Carter, trolling on Twitter, replied — “In what way?”
I told him it would be remarkable as an economic and political action — poor state turns down promised big jobs — but not necessarily wrong. Just remarkable.
The interesting thing to me is that he seems to be interested in what the reaction would be if it gets turned down.
It will be interesting to see the extent to which Beebe fights for this. I don’t see him fighting for much of anything and he has been rather dispassionately matter-of-fact about how, hey, this is the Legislature’s call.
It’s also unclear whether it would matter much if he did fight.
Oh, and I should mention: The existing and well-subsidized steel operation in the area, Nucor, is lobbying hard, as you might expect, against the taxpayers giving $125 million to a competitor.