Paul Jacob

Everyone knows what great fun it is to win an election, but what good can come from losing a vote?

The answer to that question was enacted last week by Arkansas’s Legislature, when the state Senate joined the House in voting to lower the state sales tax on groceries by another half-cent — down to 1.5 percent.

This refreshing outbreak of sanity was not enabled by way of a GOP legislative takeover. Though it helped that Republicans enjoy a far larger minority in both chambers after last November’s election than at any time in my half-century of existence (roughly 20 years of it living in Arkansas), Democrats still control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

The cause of Arkansas’s 2011 tax-cutting is actually a constitutional amendment petitioned onto the state’s ballot back in 2002.

That initiative, had it passed, would have abolished the state’s sales tax on food and over-the-counter medicine completely.

But, dubbed “Ax the Food Tax,” it did not pass.

The issue earned a spot on the ballot thanks to the state’s Libertarian Party, members of which drafted and filed the language. Also responsible were activists, including my older brother, Tim Jacob, who served as a spokesperson and brought his experience from a successful initiative effort on term limits. Finally, the financial support of Steve Stephens — a well-known philanthropist who serves as chairman of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, the state’s foremost think tank, which has long advocated cutting the tax — proved a major factor in the petition drive’s success.

Once the initiative made that ballot, it was fiercely debated. Or, perhaps, “savaged” is a more accurate word.

Every special interest group hoping to remain on the gravy train of state spending — the state’s Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Education Association, Municipal League, Farm Bureau, Arkansas Hospital Association and the list goes on and on and on — joined the campaign against what was labeled Amendment 3 on that year’s statewide ballot.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.