State Sen. Bob Ballinger has a problem “representing” his constituents. 

Recently, he prided himself on representing 90,000 people, but after Friday, when he went on another social media rant, one has to wonder what constituents he claims to represent. 

Ballinger took to Twitter to express his support for the Arkansas Legislative Council’s denial of an allocation of $7 million in federal funding to the Northwest Arkansas Council to use for Covid-19 contact tracing, testing and case coordination for the Hispanic and Marshallese populations. On Monday, the legislative council reversed its decision and voted to approve the funding. 

Ballinger was against the approval of the money, even though NWA has around 43,000 Hispanic and Marshallese people in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties.

Rather than spending federal funding from the CARES act, he suggested that, citing their profits, corporations, such as Walmart, Tyson, and J.B. Hunt use a portion of their profits to do the government’s job. He then said, “If this is really about Arkansans dying, wouldn’t they step it up and cover that cost? Maybe some folks are using these minority communities.” He stated that these corporations should do what they are asking their government to do. 

Sen. Ballinger, it really is about people dying. Why did you not step up and support covering that cost through federal funding? 

Ballinger claims not to support the funding because, “There were a lot of unanswered questions that we had to deal with. Primarily the biggest concern was that we’ve already allocated $40 million toward contact tracing. Now we’re putting another $7 million out and the legislature got very little information as to what we’re going to get for that $7 million. What was that money going to go towards? And how was it going to be utilized and should that $7 million come out of the $40 million that is already allocated and what is the overlap?” 

He claimed the allocation shouldn’t be made because the public hasn’t had time to look at the proposal and “scrutinize” it. That’s certainly not the standard that Ballinger used before he voted to give money to Ecclesia College, which was outside of his district and not used for the benefit of his constituents. That grant also spurred multiple federal indictments of certain legislators because Ecclesia, a private college, misappropriated the funds. 

The CDC spent several weeks in NWA recently, issuing a report that details how the state can do better in supporting the Hispanic and Marshallese communities, who have been impacted disproportionately by the pandemic. 

The governor is trying to help those communities and had this to say about before the legislative council’s approval of the funding: “There is an urgency at the present time to improve and increase our contact tracing and our work within the minority populations across the state,” he said.

“The CDC recommended more to be done to stop the spread within the minority populations, and we cannot start that work without the approval of the Legislative Council. The federal funds are in hand; the plan is in place; the partners are ready to go to work and our cases are going up. So, yes, this needs to be approved. The legislature is an essential partner, and we cannot get this done without their action. I do hope this will be reconsidered next week, but every day that passes with action simply increased the opportunity for this virus to spread.” 

Sen. Ballinger, the funding that was approved will directly benefit your constituents by helping minority communities, some of which are you elected to represent. At a time in which acting for the greater good is of the utmost importance, more contact tracing and testing will help all of your constituents. You shouldn’t be asking corporations to do your job. You should have supported the proposal.