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Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Repealing the State Bingo Tax Is Not Enough

Bill Smith, ARRA Editor: One candidate running for the Arkansas State legislature argues that last week's Arkansas Legislature’s Joint Performance Review Committee consensus that the controversial state "bingo tax" should be repealed is still not enough. In addition to repealing the tax, Karen Hopper calls for a return of revenue on a prorated basis to the local veteran’s groups, churches, and community organizations unable to fund their causes because of the excessive tax.

Karen Hopper is the Republican candidate for District 81 which covers Mountain Home, Lakeview, Midway, Cotter, Gassville and a majority of citizens in Baxter County. Hopper went on record back in April voicing her opposition to the excessive tax and said then if elected she will work to reduce the excessive tax on charitable bingo. “For the past six months as I campaigned across the district, numerous representatives from local veteran’s groups, churches and community organizations have told me how this excessive tax has drastically impacted their ability to fund college scholarships, Boys and Girls State delegates, and numerous other activities,” Hopper said.

Voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing charitable bingo and raffles. Act 388 of 2007 established the rules and regulations for operators, including a method of taxing the games. Under the rules established by Act 388, groups must purchase a license and then pay a 1-cent tax on each bingo game card or “face” sold. The Act also requires charities to purchase bingo and raffle licenses. Hopper said despite the legislature having input from representatives of community organizations around the state as the terms of Act 388 were hammered out, Department of Finance and Administration’s (DFA) interpretation of the rules led to the excessive collections.

The tax generated $1.1 million during the last financial year, with DFA using $600,000 to fund the monitoring of bingo operations in the state. The result is that community organizations across the state are suffering to the point they are not able to fund their causes. In the Mountain Home area the tax has verily affected the charity programs the American Legion, VFW, Elks and Moose. Jim Whitesell, a member and bingo volunteer at the Alley-White American Legion Post 52 of Mountain Home, said. "Last year, the American Legion generated through Bingo $15,000 for charities: college scholarships, gifts to a local men shelter and women's shelter, boy state, high school ROTC cadet programs, and funds to the National Guard Family Readiness Group. This year we were only able to raise $4,250 for charities." Whitesell shared that the drop in available money to support charities was created by the "Bingo Tax" which is in fact an excise tax on bingo cards. Previously, organizations paid $27 plus a 6% sales tax for a box of cards (sheets). Under the current tax, they pay $117 per box. The "bingo tax" has created an increase of over 400 percent in the cost of bingo cards and has reduced funds for charity.

While efforts have been made requesting DFA to reduce the tax per the stated interpretation of the legislatures who passed the act, the DFA officials maintain any changes must be made legislatively. Isn't it amazing that the DFA has played this situation to their advantage. The Director of DFA, appointed by and under the leadership of Governor Mike Beebe, has refused to budge and has in fact added additional people and incurred additional expenses (over $600,000) using the excess collected funds from the "bingo tax." Gov. Beebe and the DFA have a responsibility to represent Arkansans fairly with respect to taxes. Daniels should not have allowed the DFA to fund another DFA operation using a misinterpretation of the "bingo tax." It appears that this is just been one more way that Arkansas' Democrat lead administration is accumulating surplus funds, growing government, and in this case, hurting charities and the people they help.

Another important note is that when Governor Mike Beebe called a special session of the legislature to increase the severance tax, the governor refused to allow the legislators to address this misinterpretation of the Bingo tax by the DFA. Why? It appears that the unintended income from the "bingo tax" has proved to be too big of an enticement for the DFA and Gov. Beebe.

When the DFA reaches into the pockets of charities and damages the services provided by these charities after they (i.e, the DFA) have been advised by the members of the legislature that this was not their intent as to the amount assessed on Charitable Bingo, it is at best malfeasance and at worst criminal malfeasance. When a person steals form another it is a crime. When the government knowingly misinterprets a law after being advised that their interpretation was both wrong and would be corrected when the legislature meets again in two years, then they should be called into accountability. Where is the Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on this issue? Not only do funds need to be returned as suggested by candidate Hopper, some heads need to role at the top of DFA.

In two years, when we elect Arkansas state constitutional officers, let's remind the our fellow voters of the poor leadership by Gov. Mike Beebe in not intervening with DFA on behalf of Arkansas charities and their clients. Also, voters should be reminded of Gov. Beebe's decision to prevent the specially called legislative session from rectifying the "bingo tax" situation.
[A correction has been made to the above article removing references to the Secretary of State Charlie Daniels . The Director of DFA is appointed by the Governor and operates under the oversight of Gov. Mike Beebe which makes the situation a little clearer in that it has always seemed that Mike Beebe "has never actually met a tax that he didn't like."]

Tags: Arkansas, Baxter County, Bingo, charity, DFA, excise tax, Finance and Administration, Governor, Karen Hopper, Mike Beebe, Tax To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 6:29 PM - Post Link


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