In today’s Talk Business & Politics Daily digital newscast, Parks and Tourism director Kane Webb talks about the booming hospitality economy. Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families director Rich Huddleston debate tax policy and spending priorities. Also, we’ll run through the top stories of the day and three big numbers that matter in Northwest Arkansas.
You can watch the full video of today’s Talk Business & Politics Daily at the end of this report, or download it through the iTunes store under Talk Business & Politics.
Arkansas tourism has been on a hot streak as statewide tourism tax collections and hospitality employment have hit all-time highs.
Arkansas Parks and Tourism director Kane Webb is thankful for the good news, but realizes it’s unsustainable in the long-run. Nonetheless, he and other tourism and hospitality leaders are making a push to continuously re-invent Arkansas’ tourism attractions.
One of the biggest pushes right now is to play to the Natural State’s strengths. Webb says the outdoors combined with urban/suburban amenities – such as restaurants and lodging – appeal to Millennial travelers.
“I don’t think you are going to lure the tourist and travelers unless you have a good product and a pretty good message. We have both, especially when you consider the type of traveler that now exists out there – the Millennial traveler – who is looking for that experience, that adventure. You know, they’ll go mountain biking, stay at a state park, be outside get a local flavor. So we are kind of built for this kind of new traveler,” he said.
Mountain biking may be the next big thing for Arkansas tourism. Watch Webb’s interview below to learn what’s happening in Arkansas later this year on this front and how big this niche in the travel industry could be.
Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, and Rich Huddleston with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families disagree on the direction that tax and spending policy should go in Arkansas.
Collins wants to see more across the board tax cuts that will help lower-, middle-, and higher-income individuals. Huddleston wants to see more targeted tax relief to help lower-income citizens pull themselves out of poverty.
“I think there are two ways of looking at taxes and looking at resources in the state,” said Collins. “One way to look at them is to say before the year starts when we all get up in the morning there is a big bucket full of money and the question is: how do we dole that bucket of money out? Do we give you any of it, do we give a rich guy some of it, or do we give it all to low income people.”
“I don’t believe that’s a good way to think about the way resources actually are created and distributed in Arkansas. The reality is when all three million of us wake up in the morning that day, so far, the bucket is empty. There is nothing to pass out because nobody has done anything yet but get out of bed. Some of us are going to get out and go to work and work hard and make a low wage, a medium wage, a high wage, but at the end of the day, when we go out and all those things Arkansas income taxes bring a portion of that into the state coffers.
“The reality is those high income earners who create jobs in Arkansas, those are the people that are filling up the state coffers. They’re the ones that are allowing us to have enough money to spend on public schools and all of these other things. So what I am trying to do is to incentivize job creators and workers to be able to go spend more of their time, energy and effort working because they get to keep more of what they earn and the reality is that’s what motivates human beings to a very large degree and that’s why we need to do it for everybody,” he said.
Huddleston counters that the data should drive a different philosophy.
“What Representative Collins, of course, is talking about is: how do you do state economic development?” Huddleston said. “I think the research and the data is pretty clear – and we like to let tax policy be driven by data and research – that taxes comes down to the bottom of nearly every list and every well-done study in terms of what’s most important to state economic development.
“A healthy and skilled workforce, a good infrastructure consisting not only of highways and roads, but also the internet and all that that goes along with that, a high quality of life, good local public services. I mean those are the things that really create jobs,” Huddleston added.
“When businessmen make the decisions about whether or not to expand and to hire more folks, they make that decision based on whether or not demand for their product is going up, not whether or not their taxes have been cut some marginal degree. I mean, if you’re a businessman who is only making hiring decisions because taxes have been cut a little bit… chances are you are not going to be in business very long, and on the flip side, if you are not doing more hiring and expanding when the market for your products is good, you are probably not going to be in business very long either,” he added.
Watch the first half of their full debate below.