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Cooper: Transparency, Tax Reform Should Be Priorities for Legislature

Updated: Apr 13

Jonesboro resident John Cooper has announced his intentions to seek election to the state House of Representatives in 2014 in District 59. Cooper challenged incumbent Rep. Butch Wilkins in 2012 (yes, that Butch Wilkins) and lost narrowly. Term limits prohibit Wilkins from seeking re-election. Several factors suggest that Cooper has a good chance to win: in addition to Cooper’s narrow loss last year, pro-Obama Democrats are less likely to turn out in 2014 like they did in 2012. These factors combined with the fact that the seat will be open could easily give Republicans a needed pickup as they struggle to hold onto their slim 51-seat majority in the state House. In an interview with The Arkansas Project, Cooper said the state would have been better off to not expand Medicaid in the recent legislative session and outlined a thorough list of concerns about the ‘private option’ version of that expansion. So good, in fact, that I wanted to reproduce it in full:

First, I have said several times that Obamacare is among the worst legislation ever passed. This is especially true in the area of commerce. As I understand it, the exchange is the only way that it can be implemented into the states. Therefore, it was the mechanism in which it could have been stopped or significantly amended. Second, I have serious questions about the flexibility the state will lose once we begin to participate. Trying to make deals with the federal government is generally an exercise in futility. It’s not likely to work. I think once we sign on, we will be stuck with it no matter what happens from that point on. I don’t believe that any exit will be possible.  Third, I understand now that we have been told by HHS that no state variations on “private option” coverage will be permitted and they must be “comparable” with the Medicaid program. What this means to me is that the very argument which was based on so called cost savings for expanding is probably no longer valid.  Fourth, I do not think that Obamacare is now or ever has been truly about who gets what and how much it will cost. I believe that the real question is if our health care system under Obamacare will be destroyed in this country for everyone! I think that question only has one answer and it is yes. Conclusion, I have never been in favor of it in any fashion. I cannot presently see any way that I could have supported the P.O. expansion.

As for his priorities in what will be the 90th General Assembly, Cooper listed transparency, tax reform, and deregulation as his top three:

#1. We need better accountability and responsible government. I want to see all votes recorded that are taken in committee. It is just the right thing to do and the public should demand it.  #2. I want to see our tax code revised to make us competitive with our surrounding states. Especially the capital gains tax and income taxes.  #3. We are #2 in employer regulation. It is very hard to start a business under that kind of a burden. No wonder we are lagging in GDP and median income. We must get rid of regulations that serve no good public interest. 

On the second most expensive decision of the session — taxpayers’ “investment” in Big River Steel — Cooper said he favors a free-market approach to job growth. “I favor market structure bringing business to our state rather than ‘manufactured’ incentives. We have seen instances recently where we have been left holding the bag on some of these incentive projects,” Cooper said. Nordex (in Cooper’s area of the state) and HP are recent examples that come to mind. Cooper said anemic economic growth coupled with government growth shows that taxpayer-funded incentives aren’t working and must be stopped:

Incentives are not really working because we have less GDP output in our state than we did in 2007. Median income for 25-34 year old young people has just now exceeded what it was in 2005, yet state government budget growth has grown by over 150%. That can’t continue.
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