The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

DRA Wins House Vote; & 1st District Candidates' Positions on Key Economic Issues

Posted on June 07, 2012 at 03:36 PM

We have two key messages to convey in this newsletter: The US House of Representatives resoundingly defeated an amendment to eliminate the Delta Regional Authority; and we provide more information about the First District candidates’ positions on the economy in that hotly contested election.

The House defeated the Chabot amendment to the energy and water appropriations bill by almost two to one–276 to 141. This amendment would have eliminated the DRA, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the other federal-state regional commissions.

Congratulations to the Congressional delegations in our region who supported the DRA, our many partners who made calls and emails before the vote urging its defeat, the DRA Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall, all the DRA staff, the eight governors of the region, and all the supporters of the DRA.

This victory for the DRA is a resounding affirmation that the agency is doing a great job!

Secondly, there is tremendous interest in the hotly contested First District election in the heart of the Arkansas Delta. Clark Hall (D-Marvell) and Scott Ellington (D-Jonesboro) have a June 12 run-off to determine the Democratic nominee who will face Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) in November. This is an election of not only regional but national importance.

MORE INFORMATION ON FIRST DISTRICT CANDIDATES’ POSITIONS: For the full answers to the Delta Caucus questionnaire, go to the website at and click on “Caucus Articles” and scroll down to the messages under each of the candidates’ names.

On May 4 at the Clinton Library Delta conference, US Rep. Rick Crawford, Prosecutor Scott Ellington and State Rep. Clark Hall held similar positions on some issues and differed on others. ASU Economics Professor Gary Latanich gave a fine presentation, although he did not make the run-off election.

Below is a condensed summary of comments by Crawford, Hall and Ellington at the May 4 event and their answers to the questionnaire:

RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND AID TO FAMILY FARMERS: They all expressed strong support for maintaining a strong budget for USDA Rural Development and aid to family farmers.

NUTRITION: All three candidates said that nutrition programs are of great importance. Ellington emphasized his support for SNAP (formerly food stamps) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program).

Crawford added that in drafting the new farm bill, he is working to root out waste, fraud and abuse so that those who really need nutrition programs are able to receive the benefits.

Hall said “I will consider future appropriations in relation to revenue. We must get our nation’s fiscal house in order while not abandoning the neediest among us.


There were different responses tto the following question about block granting SNAP: “Many hunger and nutrition experts in the Delta oppose proposals to block grant SNAP and thereby reduce SNAP benefits by $127 billion (over 10 years). Would you oppose this policy?”

Hall answered by flatly saying “Yes.”

Crawford answered that “Block grants have the advantage of giving individual states more flexibility in targeting federal funds. Anytime we can transfer power away from a Washington bureaucrat I think that’s a good thing.”

Ellington responded that “Yes, in rural America the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC are necessary. I would oppose proposals to reduce SNAP benefits.”


The Delta Caucus question asked, “When the economy recovers and the increase in revenue from having more people at work strengthens the budget, would you support an expansion of the funding at least up to the original level of $30 million for the DRA?”

Ellington said “Yes.”

Crawford said “The Delta Regional Authority has been an asset to my district in Arkansas and the region as a whole. As Congress works to balance funding needs with limited taxpayer dollars, the DRA’s record of accomplishment should be noted. In the House of Representatives, I am working to educate my colleagues about the work the DRA does and asking for their support to ensure that the DRA can continue serving the Delta.”

Regarding the issue of restoring the DRA budget to its original $30 million, Crawford said “My chief economic concern is paying down the looming national debt that threatens to rob young Americans from the opportunities their parents and grandparents enjoyed. I am hopeful that Congress can enact permanent spending caps that will prevent our country from spending money that we do not have and that will get our economy moving forward. As our economy begins to recover, I would certainly consider additional funding opportunities for the DRA and the programs they provide.”

Hall said “The DRA serves the entirety of my congressional district, and it serves it well. Unlike my current Congressman, I will oppose cuts that will undermine the strength of the First District’s economy.”

Hall added that “As the only candidate for office that has worked with our Governor to maintain a balanced budget in Arkansas, I understand the importance of paying down our debt and I will consider expanded funding for worthy investments as a growing economy allows.”

EPA REGULATIONS: All three candidates expressed concern about the EPA regulations that can inhibit job creation.

Ellington said: The EPA has an important role in ensuring that future generations have the same, or better, opportunity to enjoy and leverage this nation’s natural resources, and said the EPA’s accomplishments in reducing pollution is “something Democrats can take pride in. That said, the EPA’s reinterpretation of decades old regulations must stop and I would support legislation delaying implementation of EPA and other regulations that would inhibit job creation.”

Hall said the EPA “Regulations should not inhibit job creation or economic recovery. They should serve the public interest, move our economy and nation forward, and be developed in consultation with the constituencies that they affect. This consultation should be open and transparent. I will not support regulations which put onerous and unreasonable burdens on our economy.”

Crawford said that “No federal agency better reflects Washington’s assault on rural Arkansas than the EPA.” He said that farmers have a deep understanding of the importance of preserving the environment. “Not only would I support asking the EPA to delay or reconsider harmful regulations, I have personally written to the EPA Administrator about the overreach of the EPA and authored legislation to keep the agency from harming farm families in Arkansas and the greater Delta region.”


Ellington said “We should make it the policy of the United States to incentivize development of biofuel resources. I believe Congress should restore the mixing credit for biofuels.”

Hall said “We need an “all-of-the-above” energy plan which develops the proven resources we have in America, such as oil and natural gas, and also brings renewables to market.” He said he support domestic energy independence with Arkansas workers and consumers in mind – workers who will build everything from pipeline to turbine blades and consumers who expect affordable and reliable energy.”

Crawford said “Yes, the Delta region’s agriculture sector has the ability to grow biomass – either as a byproduct of commodity crops, or through energy crops. Processors have the ability to extract oils from soybeans, cotton, and rice that can be used as a biofuel feedstock. I have advocated for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) which has enabled growers to plant 6,588 acres of switch grass (miscanthus giganteus) for the sole purpose of being converted into biofuels. The Delta region has several conversion facilities where these raw materials are turned into biofuels and sold commercially. Working with the eight states that encompass the greater Delta I am confident that we can grow the renewable fuel industry.”

ENERGY EFFICIENCY, RETROFITS AND CONSERVATION: Among the initiatives discussed are the LIHEAP program for aiding lower income senior citizens and other vulnerable people during severe weather with their energy bills, and energy efficiency programs like Arkansas’ Home Energy Assistance Loan (HEAL) program whereby energy retrofits are paid for by the savings infrastructure improvements cause in energy bills.

Ellington said “Yes, I would support LIHEAP and HEAL programs. Electrical co-ops must find ways to reduce the pull on the energy grid to avoid the costs associated with building new energy producing plants. That means helping customers better insulate their homes, run more efficient appliances and improve customer awareness of costs and consequences. I believe that the government can and should secure low cost loans for the co-ops and utilities to distribute to assist with HEAL and LIHEAP. The benefits are two-fold: the energy consumption goals are advanced and we put people to work right away in the construction and labor market that would be energized by the project.”

Crawford said “President Obama’s budget calls for sharply reducing funding for LIHEAP, and energy retrofitting was a wasteful part of the stimulus bill.”

Crawford added that “Energy costs are taking up a larger part of the budget for families and businesses in the Delta. We need to have all options on the table as we work to address the rising cost of energy.”

Hall said at the May 4 event that “I absolutely support the LIHEAP program.”

In his questionnaire Hall wrote, “I support energy conservation programs, such as HEAL, which seek to increase the competitiveness of Arkansas businesses by lowering facility energy costs and increasing disposable income for working families.” He said “To implement, I believe that we must continue proven partnerships which have yielded positive results and savings. Potential and established partners include the Arkansas Energy Office, the Clinton Foundation, community colleges, and organizations of the Delta.”


Hall said “Like all Arkansans, I believe we must get the gross speculation out of oil prices, end those oil and gas subsidies that do not lower consumer prices, and stop sending money overseas to people who don’t hold our nation’s interests at heart.” He added, “We cannot and will not lose out on the next generation of technology to overseas competitors. I will work with the eight Delta states and all interested parties, both in Congress and outside its halls, to make sure that these pillars of a comprehensive energy plan will lower our energy costs, grow our economy, and better our national security.”

Crawford said “Our country needs an energy policy that puts all options on the table. The first step toward crafting an “all of the above” energy plan is developing the energy resources we have right here in North America to lower gas prices and lessen our dependency on Middle Eastern oil. We can begin developing our domestic resources and lowering gas prices by: · Giving full approval to the Keystone XL Pipeline. · Opening huge areas in the American West for oil shale development to provide oil and natural gas. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates we have the equivalent of more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. That’s six times Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, and enough to provide the United States with energy for 200 years. · The Obama Administration recently announced plans to restrict off-shore drilling for another five years. After the BP oil spill, strict new regulations were put in place to allow for safe and responsible drilling. Now we just need the Obama Administration to lift the ban on drilling and resume the sale of offshore oil leases and expand American energy production.


Ellington said “The military budget is one of the largest discretionary spending line items. I foresee reductions being made there as both wars wind down. I am not sure what level I would support at this time until I have the opportunity to study the matter further.”

Crawford said “As a former member of the United States Army I know the challenges our armed forces face.” He added that “My constituents understand the role a strong military plays in protecting our nation and defending freedom around the world.”

Crawford continued that “As Congress looks to balance the federal budget and pay down our national debt, our military commanders are looking at ways to trim their budgets. I am in favor of listening to commanders in the field and military leaders about how they think we can reduce military spending.”

Hall emphasized that “Our military must remain the preeminent fighting force for good in the world. At the same time, military spending is expected to change with the ending of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resulting monetary savings shall be applied to upholding Social Security and Medicare promises, to our returning service men and women – true heroes – and to paying down our national debt.”

Hall added that “Future funding levels for military expenditures must consider the ever-changing national security landscape and threats to our nation’s vital interests.”

TAXES AND REVENUE FOR REDUCING THE DEFICITS: The Delta Caucus questionnaire focused on the surtax for incomes of a million dollars or more, and the question of returning to the tax code as it was in approximately the year 2000, when the budget ran a surplus:

Hall said “Iwill not support any tax increase on working-class Arkansans. I have consistently supported the extension of the payroll tax cut and strongly opposed the idea of a national sales tax. My opponent has not.”

Hall continued that “I would support revising our tax code to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and we get our budget back in order. This includes closing loopholes and ending burdensome regulations. Having worked alongside Governor Beebe (editor’s note–Hall serves in the Arkansas legislature), I know that government can responsibly cut taxes, balance the budget, and grow the economy.”

Crawford said “In March, I introduced the Shared Responsibility in Preserving America’s Future Act which would require Congress pass a balanced budget amendment in exchange for a 5% surtax on individual income over $1 million a year. Without a balanced budget amendment added to the Constitution, I have little faith in Washington’s ability to kick its spending addiction.”

Crawford added that “the 5% surtax on individual income exceeding $1 million a year would generate $400 billion over 10 years that could be used to pay down our national debt. Permanent spending caps and funds to pay down the national debt will be a signal to job creators that Washington is serious about getting the economy back on track and putting people back to work.”

Ellington said he urged returning to the Clinton administration tax levels, but would not suppport the surtax: “No, because a surtax on the rich lacks integrity. I would support going back to the tax levels of when President Bill Clinton was in office and we had a budget surplus and 4% unemployment. That some corporations pay less than 10% in taxes is just the latest example of how the rats’ nest of federal tax rules and regulations are used to excuse massive corporations from paying their fair share, and that’s the problem. A surtax does nothing to address that. It’s time to reduce the size of the code, close cut-outs and loopholes and demand people and corporations to pay the share of taxes we’re all supposed to pay.”

DELTA CAUCUS QUESTION ON HOUSING: What is your position regarding an aggressive program of federal aid in reducing mortgage payments and preventing foreclosures?

Ellington on housing: “I do not believe it’s the role of the federal government to subsidize the losses facing the mortgage lending industry. Those lenders and their insurers on Wall Street placed avarice and greed above sound lending policy and risk analysis and we’ve already done more than we should have to staunch the consequences of those bad decisions. My belief is that those banks who received public funds should provide current homeowners an opportunity to shift to lessees in order to stop the cycle of debt and foreclosure. The costs of this should be born by those who caused the crisis: the banks and mortgage brokers and not more taxpayer funds.”

Hall on housing: “Until the housing sector fully recovers, the economy will not fully recover. The federal government has not adequately addressed this crisis.”

Crawford on housing: “Nothing good comes out of people losing their homes to foreclosure. I would gladly favor measures that would help people stay in their homes by adjusting monthly payment amounts through refinancing.”


Delta Caucus question about priorities in spending: “In choosing priorities for spending cuts, many people in the Delta would oppose cuts to programs that create or retain jobs or provide aid for the most vulnerable populations that are most damaged by the recession, especially in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, aid to senior citizens, hunger and nutrition, flood control and disaster relief, veterans and housing; therefore, would you oppose cutting spending for these job creation and vital programs for the most vulnerable populations?

Ellington answered: “I would oppose cutting spending for job creation and the above mentioned vital programs.”

Crawford answered: “Medicare and Social Security are a promise made to seniors that must be kept. Just last month the Social Security Board of Trustees and the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund announced that the programs will run out of money sooner than expected. In Congress I am working to ensure that current Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries do not see a change in their benefits. Additionally, we must take steps to ensure these programs are available for future generations.”

Crawford continued in saying, “Keep in mind that our nation’s debt is higher than it has ever been. For our economy to recover and job creators to begin hiring more workers, Congress must show progress toward ending deficit spending and paying down our national debt.”

Hall emphasized that “We must balance our nation’s budget in a responsible manner, but responsibility does not mean the privatization of social security, the dismantling of Medicare into a voucher program, or breaking our nation’s promises to seniors and vulnerable populations. I will work to balance the budget, as I have in Arkansas with Governor Beebe, while opposing unreasonable cuts to vital programs.”


Crawford said, “As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been an outspoken advocate for a long-term Highway Bill to address our nation’s aging infrastructure. A long-term bill would allow entities from the municipal, county, state and federal level to plan well into the future and to provide the roads, bridges and ports that are needed to get goods to market.

Just last week I was named to a Conference Committee of House and Senate members who will be charged with resolving the differences between the House and Senate Highway Bills. It is rare for freshman members to be appointed to a conference committee and I will use my seat on the committee to be a voice for the Delta and rural interests. My First Congressional District has more Mississippi River Frontage than any other in the Delta and I will work to ensure that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is actually used for Harbor Maintenance and dredging along the river.”

Crawford said, “Additionally, we must also realize that in 2012, information and goods do not just travel on roads and bridges. It is essential that rural regions like the Delta have access to high-speed internet for businesses and educational institutions to succeed. For too long the Delta has been underserved by the status quo.”

Hall said “I will work to balance our nation’s budget while improving its infrastructure. Unfortunately, Congress has put partisanship before policy in delaying needed infrastructure projects –including the much debated highway bill and investments in expanded broadband service. Bringing high-speed internet to all corners of the Delta, so that individuals may learn and businesses may compete, serves the regional and national interest. It also serves our country’s interest to replace the leaders in Washington who are unwilling to do what is necessary to put America’s economy back on track.

Ellington stressed that “My priorities to jump start economic development would be to work on building and repairing infrastructure and increase funding for education and training. To jump start economic development we must put people back to work. We could start by developing a WPA-type program of building and repairing the infrastructure.”

Ellington also said, “I would absolutely support major job creation programs that improve our nation’s infrastructure. Much of our country’s infrastructure was built between the end of World War II and the mid 1970s.”