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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The Declaration of Independence


Arkansas Candidates on the Record

Earlier this month, we helped to compile a comprehensive report that highlights where candidates stand on many policy issues. The survey was conducted by Commerce In Action. They sent a questionnaire to every legislative primary candidate in Arkansas. Not all candidates responded. In fact, in a few districts, no candidates responded at all. (Candidates from one particular political party were a lot more forthcoming about their views.) But the survey contains a list of every primary candidate nonetheless. If a candidate chose not to answer, this is indicated by a column of question marks.

As The Arkansas Project's Nic Horton noted, "One thing that I particularly like about this questionnaire is that, for the most part, it asks candidates about real, specific proposals that have already come through the legislature in bill form (and cites the particular bills by name, so voters can read the bills themselves). Unfortunately, many questionnaires often ask unrealistic or wildly hypothetical questions (for example, “Do you support cutting state government by 90%?”) That certainly might be a noble goal, and the candidate’s answer might tell us something valuable about their principles — but it also might not. If candidates are asked unrealistic questions, they have an incentive to provide unrealistic answers — because the likelihood that they’ll actually have to face a vote on that particular question is very small."

Our survey's questions are likely to come before the legislature when or if these candidates become lawmakers. Because of this, voters should have a much better idea how these candidates might vote when they’re faced with similar proposals.

Hats off to Conduit In Action for a great survey, and thanks to all the candidates who took the time to fill it out.

You can view the full report here.

You can also view an appendix of a few candidates’ comments here.



The Private Option's Future: Fiscally Unsustainable

In conjunction with the Advance Arkansas InstituteJoe Luppino-Esposito of State Budget Solutions has published a new report on the budgetary impact of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion on the state.

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

Arkansas's total state debt: $3.7 billion -- that puts the per capita debt at $12,785.

Arkansas’s state debt is 34% of the state gross product. That is a whopping 264% of the state’s total expenditures in fiscal year 2012.

Medicaid already accounts for 21.4% of Arkansas’s total expenditures.

Arkansas is approaching a dangerous reliance on the federal government for its revenue. In 2012, the state received 34.47% of its general revenue from the federal government—more than 29 other states.

The eventual reduction of the federal government’s 90% reimbursement rate is all but certain: “The fastest thing that’s going to go when we’re cutting spending in Washington is a 100 or 90 percent match rate for Medicaid. There’s no way. It doesn’t matter if Republicans are running Congress or Democrats are running Congress. There’s no way we’re going to keep those match rates like that.” – Rep. Paul Ryan

Also, in case you missed it, AAI published this report recently about the material changes in Obamacare since the legislature originally adopted Medicaid expansion last year.


The Facts on Arkansas Hospital Finances

About a week ago, Representative Doug House sent a mass email to fifty of his House Republican colleagues, and then it found its way into my inbox. I think it’s a response to the paper that AAI published earlier this month called “The Cure Is Worse Than the Disease: Why the Private Option Will Hurt, Not Help, Arkansas’s Hospitals.” 

In response to House’s response, the Advance Arkansas Institute prepared this brief paper and distributed it to all House members yesterday.

Rep. House’s email, as I understand it, argues that the “private” option – Arkansas’s version of Obamacare-Medicaid expansion – has nothing to do with Medicaid reimbursements, and that the vast majority of Arkansas hospitals who are facing severe financial danger will have their problems solved by the private option. I’m not sure if I can aptly summarize every argument in House’s email, so we’ve reproduced it here. And, of course, you can see AAI’s response to House’s email – “The Question That Private Option Advocates Cannot Answer” – here.

Although some advocates of Medicaid expansion have been arguing that Arkansas hospitals are losing money en masse, as far as I know AAI is the only organization to run the numbers. Even when we used the data that Rep. House relied on, we found that -- as a whole -- Arkansas hospitals, both the non-profit and for-profit kind, continue to be net revenue generators. 


Presenting the 2013 Freedom Scorecard (Updated)

It's that moment you've all been waiting for -- the full unveiling of AAI's 2013 Freedom Scorecard!

The report is the most thorough of its kind to ever be produced in the state of Arkansas, scoring over 100 bills from last year's legislative session.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

The Advance Arkansas Institute and Conduit for Commerce are pleased to present this study of the 2013 voting records of legislators serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. Arkansas’s 2013 Freedom Scorecard discloses and rates legislative votes on roughly 100 notable bills of the 89th General Assembly. Notability, of course, is in the eye of the beholder; in this case, the beholders are the authors and producers of the study. Although it is not the role of AAI or CFC to endorse (or condemn) the performance of any particular legislator, we believe that the data illuminate how the votes of some legislators advanced the well-being of Arkansas citizens, while the votes of other legislators diminished it.

Our study ranked the voting records of legislators by totaling up the subscores they earned to derive a final score. That final score is a quick-and-dirty measure of each legislator’s commitment to liberty and good government. That score is dependent on a variety of subscores -- we measured, through their votes on various bills, legislators’ fidelity to a dozen different values: clean elections, criminal justice, education reform, economic freedom, Obamacare and health care reform, integrity in government, lawsuit reform, personal liberty, anti-cronyism, Second Amendment rights, smaller government, and tax relief. Each of those dozen values created a separate subscore for each legislator, which we represent as percentages.

AAI/CFC recognized several groups of legislators for their commitments to advancing freedom in Arkansas: the two legislators with the highest overall scores in each chamber were recognized as "Best Friends of Freedom." The top-tier of scorers in each chamber were recognized as "Friends of Freedom." Legislators who withstood immense pressure and voted against expanding Medicaid were recognized with the Calvin Coolidge Award. And finally, two legislators were recognized as "Legislator of the Year" (one for each chamber of the legislature) for their work in sponsoring and passing important legislation.

To see how your legislators fared, click here.

[A brief 4/15/14 update on technical corrections from Alex Cartwright, coauthor of the report, follows:

Recently, two different public officials alerted us about a few minor errors in our 2013 Freedom Scorecard. We did a top-to-bottom review and discovered that legislators’ votes had been mistranscribed in a few instances. We then recalculated the final scores with corrected data.

The point of the scorecard is to use recorded votes in order to compare legislators to one another in a relative way. When we recalculated the scores, we found that legislators' scores had not changed materially: our recalculation resulted in changes that amounted, in most cases, to moving one point up or down on what is approximately a 100-point scale. (Of course, depending on one’s perspective, a small change might seem large, especially with respect to our subscores. For instance, we took five House votes into account for our “Lawsuit Reform” subscore. Changing one vote of those five votes, for instance, could change a 60% subscore to a 40% subscore or an 80% subscore. To repeat, that is the kind of subscore change one might expect when changing one vote.)

We apologize for our error. The revised scorecard has been posted above.]


Medicaid Expansion: Bad For Arkansas Hospitals

Our latest policy paper examines the impact of the “private” option on Arkansas hospitals. The news is not good.

Authors Dan Greenberg and Shane Stacks explain that the basic realities of Arkansas hospital finance cannot justify the private option, or any other form of Medicaid expansion. Key findings include:

  • The problem of hospitals’ uncompensated care is driven primarily by bad debt, which the private option does not address;

  • The problem of hospital bad debt, and uncompensated care generally, is likely overstated by hospitals’ use of “charge basis” accounting;

  • The private option will weaken hospital balance sheets by increasing both their bad debt and their undercompensated Medicaid costs;

  • The private option will increase both the costs and the burdens in already-strained Arkansas hospital emergency rooms;

  • The Affordable Care Act’s scheduled Medicaid cuts which supposedly justified the private option – like the Affordable Care Act’s scheduled employer mandate – never happened.

The report contains a statistical analysis of many of the publicly disclosed Form 990s that nonprofit hospitals have filed. The analysis demonstrates that undercompensated Medicaid expenses, which the private option is supposed to remedy, only constitute about 10% of hospitals’ uncompensated care problem -- and that the private option will by and large leave the other 90% of uncompensated care unaffected.

You can click here to read  “The Cure Is Worse Than the Disease: Why the Private Option Will Hurt, Not Help, Arkansas’s Hospitals.”



Uncovering the Obamacare Exchanges

 Do you understand how the Obamacare exchanges will affect you? Well, don’t worry about it: nobody else does either.

In fact, the Obamacare exchanges create extraordinary pitfalls for people who want to get married, change jobs, save money, or – indeed – seek medical attention. If you think you might face any of these life choices in the future, you owe it to yourself to read the two papers we’ve just published on the Obamacare exchanges.

Our first paper explains how the exchanges can limit your choices and create unforeseen tax liabilities. Our second paper explains how the exchanges will increase the role of the IRS in your life – through greater complexity in the tax system, an increased likelihood of identity theft, larger probabilities of more intrusive audits, and (of course) Obamacare’s 18 new taxes.

The Advance Arkansas Institute is proud to publish these two new papers in concert with the Foundation for Government Accountability.


Register For The 'Uncover Obamacare' Tour Here

We are proud to announce a new series of town hall meetings focused on Obamacare and its impact on Arkansas: ‘Uncover Obamacare.’

 The meetings will be held around the state next week and will feature Christie Herrera of the Foundation for Government Accountability, Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Center for Public Affairs, and our very own Dan Greenberg of AAI.

A free meal will be provided to the first fifty registrants for each event. Meetings will be held in:

To RSVP and reserve your seat, click on the corresponding link above. We look forward to seeing you there!


2013 was a historic year for the Advance Arkansas Institute. Not only did we work with lawmakers to reform government and bring integrity to the ballot box, we also:

  • Provided daily news coverage and analysis here at, breaking multiple major news stories, doubling our web traffic from 2012, and reaching the highest traffic mark since The Arkansas Project began its affiliation with AAI

  • Produced a new Freedom Scorecard that grades legislators on their votes

  • Published multiple policy papers on multiple policy topics

  • Testified before legislative committees

  • Gained national recognition for our social media presence

  • Launched a new podcast that has garnered hundreds of listeners every week

  • Appeared weekly on local radio shows to talk about freedom, liberty, and our reports

  • Hosted half a dozen town hall meetings around the state to educate Arkansans about the perils of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion

  • Hosted luncheons with national experts such as Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal

We couldn’t have done any of this without your help — and in 2014, we’re counting on your help to continue advancing freedom in Arkansas.

Coming up in 2014, we will be:

  • Continuing our daily news coverage at

  • Continuing our weekly podcast and radio appearances

  • Hosting more town halls to educate Arkansans about the perils of Obamacare

  • Publishing a new edition of the “Action Plan for Arkansas,” a policy-making guide for state legislators

  • Expanding our Freedom Scorecard to measure legislative performance in an unprecedented way

  • And much more!

We want you to be a part of this movement. Can you give $50 today?

When you give to AAI, you aren’t just making a charitable, tax-deductible contribution – you’re becoming a member of our team. As a team member, you’ll be sent the latest AAI publications, reports, newsletters, and invitations to AAI events.

Will you become a member for just $50 today?

We want to continue to educate Arkansas citizens and policymakers about dangers of big government and higher taxes — and especially the extraordinary and dangerous burdens that Medicaid expansion and the private option will put on every health-care provider and taxpayer.

A generous donor has offered to match any donation we receive of $500 or more by the end of this year. That means the value of your gift could double, but time is running out.

Click here if you want to be a part of this unique opportunity today.

It is a privilege to stand beside you in the fight for limited government and free markets. Together, we can make Arkansas a beacon of liberty and a refuge of freedom for future generations.


The Advance Arkansas Institute: King of All Media

Are you getting our podcast -- a 20-minute rundown on the latest in news about liberty? Are you on our email list -- a weekly roundup of links that tell you what you need to know about politics and policy?

If not, why not?

Go here to find out about our podcasts -- and to get on our mailing list, just type your name in the box at left.


Five Arguments Against A State Insurance Exchange

Under the Affordable Care Act, Arkansas must either establish a state health insurance exchange or allow the federal government to do so: each exchange will accept and process citizen enrollment in health insurance plans. Two-thirds of the states have declined to establish state exchanges, thus leaving exchange creation to the federal government; given the 33-state rejection of health care exchanges, it is a bit of a mystery why HB1508 – which establishes a state exchange – passed the House and is on the Senate floor today. The Beebe administration has worked tirelessly to establish a state exchange for years; following are five reasons why the state Senate should decline Governor Beebe’s invitation to create a new insurance bureaucracy.

1. A state exchange will not increase local policymakers' control over insurance providers or create better customer service.

2. A state exchange will burden state taxpayers and state budgeters. 

3. A state exchange will load political accountability onto state officials for federal Obamacare problems.

To read the other two reasons and an in-depth analysis, read our full paper.