The Era of Unchecked Government…Is Over 1981

“The Era of Unchecked Government…Is Over” 1981

By Frank White

Vol. 3, No. 2, 1981, pp. 5, 18

My election endorsed a new type of leadership for Arkansas. The challenge for the 80s is very clear: “The era of unchecked government fiscal expansion is over. Government is not, never was, and cannot be all things to all people.”

We submit to you an austere, no frills, no nonsense budget. We cannot outspend inflation in Arkansas—we shouldn’t try.

We have seen the frustration and difficulties created by our failure to practice fiscal integrity in state government. Our current budget is $80 million more than our anticipated revenues. In the spring of 1980 we failed to heed the clear warning being sent by the national economic indicators and our own reduced tax collections. The “windfall tax” program of 1980 created for the first time in Arkansas history, deficit spending. Last year we accelerated tax collections instead of cutting spending. This maneuver gave the people of Arkansas a false sense of security that ignored economic reality.

It is time for us to “draw the line.” Learn from our past mistakes. It is imperative at this time that we use common sense and maintain the financial integrity of the state. In my effort to use sound business practices, I ask for your understanding and cooperation. It will not be easy. We must live within our means.

I believe the purpose of government is to do for the people only what the people cannot do for themselves. Abraham Lincoln said, “You cannot help man permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

My administration is firmly committed to an aggressive industrial development effort. The dignity of the individual can best be served by a meaningful job opportunity. I propose to recreate the Arkansas Industrial Commission (AIDC) and abolish the Department of Economic Development. The AIDC and her industrial training division enjoyed national respect and recognition that spanned 25 years starting with the late Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. During that 25 years we have seen over $4 billion in investments—300,000 new and expanded jobs and 3,900 new and expanded plants.

Much has been said about the failure of our vo-tech progrqm. I know everyone in this room shared my concern when we learned we lost a $150,000,000 high technology industry in 1980 because of our inability to provide the technical training through our vo-tech program.

I have proposed a new direction and administrative control for our votech program. Business and labor will be encouraged to help us develop a new program–better funded—more responsive to the needs of industry.

Let me reaffirm my commitment to cut back the growth of government. My executive recommendations will cut the governor’s staff 25 percent and save the taxpayers over $400,000. Effective today, the Washington office (of the state of Arkansas) is closed, allowing $187,000 saved in the last six months of this biennium. I will support the abolishment of the Department of Public Safety and I have an open mind on a reduction in the Department of Local Services and the Department of Higher Education.

Page 18

I propose to take the Department of Energy and put it under the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. Within the AIDC I will look for its planning division and the energy division to work on the development of a broad energy program.

An energy program which will insure:

  • That the state of Arkansas has adequate energy supplies to encourage and support our economic and industrial growth in the future.
  • That we support and encourage conservation and the dissemination of information to our people on government supported programs.
  • Continued support for industrial and residential energy audits to inform people how to cut energy costs.
  • That we analyze energy supplies and distribution and help the state deal with resource shortages.
  • That the state participates in programs to develop alternate energy sources.

I have recommended 16 new positions for the Public Service Commission and $1.4 million increase above continuing level funding for the biennium. This will strengthen the PSC’s ability to handle their increased workload and encourage reasonable and timely rate decisions.

I have allocated over 45 percent of my budget to public education, the highest percentage ever allocated by a governor. For those who argue that that is not enough, I remind them that local school districts do have the ability to go to their voters for additional revenues. We have tried to address the health care needs of our state with compassion and understanding. During periods of revenue expansion, I will look to improve the budgets of education and health care.

As I accept this great responsibility I ask that you pray for me that I will have the strength and the wisdom to pursue those things which serve the needs of all our people. I seek your support and your guidance in these difficult times ahead, knowing that together, we can build a new future for Arkansas—a future that encourages a better quality of life for all.