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Dear Mahatma: Folks advocating for the half-percent sales-tax extension love to say this isn't a tax increase because it's been in place since 2012. They just want us to let them make it permanent. I don't necessarily oppose the extension, I'm still chewing on it, but here's a point I haven't heard: If Arkansans reject the extension, they are cutting their taxes. How often does the general nonelected public ever have a chance to cut taxes? -- 57 Vintage Zippo

Dear Zippo: An old friend used to say that he had a wife and a Zippo -- and they both worked.

Ha-ha! That's a joke.

For those who don't know, Zippo has been making lighters for 86 years and earlier this year topped 600 million manufactured.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Six-hundred million happens to be arithmetically twice the $300 million the half-percent sales tax roughly raises each year, a tax to sunset after 10 years. Issue 1, if approved by voters on Tuesday, would make that tax stretch, theoretically, into infinity. Or at least until many of us take a dirt nap.

The money would go to cities, counties and the state Department of Transportation to improve our streets, roads and highways.

This column expresses no opinion on whether Issue 1 should pass. When we agreed to write this thing, part of the deal was that our opinions would be surgically removed in exchange for being vastly overpaid.

Having said that, there are arguments on both sides that make sense. Who doesn't want better highways? Who doesn't want a lower sales tax?

To sum up, let's quote H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, newspaper columnist and world-class cynic. That guy -- he was grumpy!

Wrote Mencken: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Dear Mahatma: I live in an unnamed thriving Central Arkansas community. Based on my highly scientific observations, my town pays more for gasoline than our neighbors. Sometimes significantly more. We can drive about 30 miles east, west, north or south and find lower prices. Why must my friends and neighbors consistently pay more? Please look into your crystal ball and let us know what you see in there. -- Broke in Conway (and no longer unnamed)

Dear Broke: One of our sons was required (forced?) to take Economics 101 in college. We asked him what he'd learned.

He replied: Supply; demand.

As your city thrives and the demand for gasoline accelerates, the supply of service stations must keep pace to maintain price equilibrium. Conway needs more gas stations. Pass this note to the Planning Commission.

We see this every day in our own neighborhood. A gas station with no competition for several blocks sells gasoline for at least 10 cents a gallon more than the two stations across the street from each other.

Guess where we go?


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