Over the last two years the General Improvement Fund (GIF) has been constantly in the news and not in a good way.
There were kickback schemes. Senator Jon Woods was convicted and Representative Micah Neal pled guilty of taking kickbacks for directing GIF to Ecclesia College.
Then the portion of GIF divided among legislators for their pet projects was declared unconstitutional by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
So, what should the legislature do about GIF? They could take the amount that wasn’t spent and save it, or use it for bigger tax relief, or use it to help fund highways. No, that is not in their plans.
If SB155 by Senator Larry Teaguepasses the legislature will rename the “General Improvement Fund” as the “Development and Enhancement Fund” and make sure to fund projects that got stopped. Section 11 says:
(d) The Development and Enhancement Fund shall be the successor fund to the General Improvement Fund for the payment of any outstanding balances, warrants, and reappropriations enacted by the General Assembly previously payable from the General Improvement Fund.
The bill uses a play from the Hutchinson administration playbook – when criticism gets heavy, change the name. For example, when Arkansas’ Obamacare Medicaid Expansion called “Private Option” came under fire, the Governor got the legislature to change the name to “Arkansas Works.”[i] Also, when the “Rainy Day Fund” was criticized as the Governor’s slush fund, the Governor got the name changed to the “Long Term Reserve Fund.”[ii]
SB155 has already passed in the Senate. Because the bill went through a joint House and Senate Committee, the bill was placed directly on the House calendar for a vote.