Past due: Sources confirm Ballinger’s debt to Ag Days

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
State Sen. Bob Ballinger posted this tweet while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Boston for a legislative conference in August 2017.

Former state senator Bryan King of Green Forest continued his criticism of state Sen. Bob Ballinger’s financial dealings recently, pointing out that Ballinger has not paid for three years’ worth of advertising in the program for Green Forest’s annual Agriculture Appreciation Days.

Two sources with knowledge of the issue confirmed that Ballinger has not paid for the advertising despite being sent multiple invoices.

“He’s been sent invoices every year,” said one source with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s around $400 or $500.”

Bob Ballinger

A second source, who also asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that Ballinger hasn’t paid for the ads.

Revenue from ads in the program is used to pay for the annual event.

“The ad sales are what funds the whole event,” one source said.

Bryan King

“When you tell somebody you’re going to do something, then you need to pay ’em,” King said. “This is just a long line of history of things I kept hearing about, people telling me that he would say he would pay for stuff, and he doesn’t.”

King also continued to criticize Ballinger for accepting payments from the state for mileage, per diem and expense reimbursements including out-of-state travel. In particular, King pointed out an August 2017 trip that Ballinger took to Boston to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit.

During that trip, Ballinger posted a photo to his Twitter account of several oysters, writing that he was “doing my part to celebrate” National Oyster Day.

In response to a comment on the Twitter post, Ballinger wrote that he was at the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston and that the oysters were “good, but not worth $2.50 each.”

Records obtained from the state Bureau of Legislative Research show that Ballinger was accompanied on the trip by his wife. Ballinger was reimbursed a total of $2,546.56 for the trip, including $1,032.87 for a total of four nights in two Boston hotels — The Liberty and the Element Boston Seaport — as well as a $750 registration fee and a total of $345 for meals. He also was reimbursed $387.60 for airfare — half the $775.20 total cost for two round-trip tickets from Tulsa to Boston.

On Ballinger’s 2018 Statement of Financial interest, filed Jan. 31, 2018, under the section designated for “Past Due Amounts Owed to Government,” Ballinger listed $1,732.09 owed to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration for “state taxes.”

“You know what? If you’re going to take trips off the taxpayers, you need to make sure your bills are paid,” King said.

Ballinger, a former resident of Berryville who now lives in rural Johnson County, didn’t respond to a question about the Ag Days program. Asked about the 2017 trip to Boston, he pointed out that King also attended the NCSL summit and provided a copy of King’s expense reimbursement form.

King was reimbursed a total of $2,758.85, including $424 for airfare, $1,181.16 for four nights in a hotel and $345 for meals.

“Will you be asking King if he thinks it’s appropriate that he took that same trip to Boston, never showed up to any of the meetings in Boston, all while only voting 27% of the time for the people he represents?” Ballinger said by email.

Ballinger has frequently criticized King for missing votes during his time in the state legislature, with King responding that he often chose not to vote on bills that he disagreed with.

“Yeah, I take conferences,” King said. “I’ve also paid for conferences out of my own pocket and not charged the taxpayers. I’m one of the least per diem and traveling legislators down there. I go to a conference, but I pay my taxes.”

Ballinger’s statements of financial interest for 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 all list past due taxes owed to the state. The statements each cover the previous calendar year. Ballinger and his wife also were delinquent on personal property tax payments in Carroll County for four consecutive years, for tax years 2017 to 2020. After moving to Johnson County in 2020, they were also delinquent on personal property taxes in that county for the tax year 2020. Carroll County records show no delinquencies on King’s personal property taxes.

King, 53, served in the state House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013, then moved to the state Senate from 2013 to 2019. King ran for re-election to the District 5 seat in the state Senate in 2018 but was defeated by Ballinger in that year’s Republican primary. Ballinger, 48, served in the state House from 2013 to 2019 before moving to the state Senate. After beating King in the 2018 Republican primary, he defeated Jim Wallace of Eureka Springs in the November 2018 general election.

Arkansas’ legislative districts were redrawn after the 2020 U.S. census. While the former District 5 included only a portion of Carroll County — which King carried handily in his 2018 primary race against Ballinger — the new District 28 includes all of Carroll County as well as all of Madison County and portions of Boone, Newton, Franklin and Johnson counties.

Other Republican candidates for the District 28 seat are Bob Largent of Harrison, state Rep. Keith Slape of Compton and Ted Walker of Huntsville. Wallace is unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face the winner of the Republican primary in November’s general election.

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