Home » News » Liberty + Leadership Podcast – David Ray on Getting Government Out of the Way

Liberty + Leadership Podcast – David Ray on Getting Government Out of the Way

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Join Roger Ream ’76 in this week’s Liberty + Leadership Podcast as he sits down with Arkansas State Representative David Ray ’07.

David discusses how TFAS inspired him to run for state representative in Arkansas, his crusade to eventually eliminate Arkansas’ state income tax, the fight for school choice with Arkansas’ Education Freedom Accounts, and the personal connections made when you represent 30,000 constituents.

David Ray is a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. He is also a consultant and communications strategist. David previously served as chief of staff to Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin from 2017-2020 as well as U.S. Senator Tom Cotton’s communications director on his 2014 campaign. He is the former state director of Americans for Prosperity – Arkansas. David is an alumnus of the 2007 TFAS Public Policy + Economics program and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science from the University of the Ozarks. This year, David was named a Club for Growth Foundation 2023 Fellow.


Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, supporters, faculty and friends who are making a real impact in public policy, business, philanthropy, law and journalism. Today I’m joined by David Ray, one of several TFAS graduates who have or currently serve in state legislatures across the United States. David is in his second term as representative for Arkansas’s 61st House District. He’s passionate in fighting to eliminate the state income tax and to make this state a safer place. In my conversation today, we’ll hear about David’s political career and his time with TFAS, including how he met his wife Jessica during his summer here in D.C. David, thanks for joining me. I very much look forward to speaking with you today.

David Ray [00:01:00] Hey, thanks for having me, Roger. It’s good to be with you.

Roger Ream [00:01:04] Now, David, there must have been something in the water the year you attended TFAS in 2007 as several of your classmates have also run and now serve in elective positions, including in North Carolina, Kansas and Oklahoma. Was your TFAS experience that summer a factor in inspiring you to run for public office in Arkansas?

David Ray [00:01:26] Well, I think it certainly played a role in leading me down the path that I went down. I really enjoyed my summer in TFAS. I did the Economic and Comparative Political Systems program. Academically, it was challenging, it was good. It was something I needed. The caliber of students that TFAS selects, as you know, is very high. I mean, there’s no bad students in any of those classes. The discussions that you have, the debates that you have with your classmates, the issues that you talk through really help shape and refine your positions and challenge your thinking on things. So, academically, it was a great experience, but professionally it was probably even more influential because it gave me the opportunity to do an internship with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and really kind of got me started, helped me out. I tell people that working there helped me. The campaign bug hit me pretty hard, and I had thought about and wanted to go to law school straight out of undergrad, but after working on campaigns and in electoral politics, I decided that I wanted to give that a try, and that really led me down a very different path than I intended to go, but also just socially TFAS was a great opportunity for somebody from who was from a really small town in West Tennessee to be able to spend a summer in our nation’s capital and see and do things that I would have otherwise never been able to do was a really formative experience for me.

Roger Ream [00:03:13] Before we talk a little more about your career and your work in the state legislature, I have to ask you about the fact that you met the woman who became your wife in our program. I’m told by my staff that we’ve had nearly or just over 90 TFAS marriages as a result of our program, which is about two per summer since we’ve been doing them. Tell me about that experience in meeting a classmate, Jessica Eagan.

David Ray [00:03:43] Well, I didn’t know the number was 90. That’s quite a bit. That really lends a lot of credence to this joke that my wife and I have always had, which is that TFAS is the world’s most expensive dating service. My wife Jessica, she was originally from Ohio, and she was attending Mount Union College and she was in the journalism program. After finishing school, she went on to be a reporter in Ohio for several years before we got married. I think that first weekend at TFAS, maybe you call it a social or a function, there was a party there in the courtyard at the apartments on Georgetown’s campus, and we hit it off and became fast friends. I think we went to a Nationals game the next day and consider that our first date, and fast forward to 2023 we’ve been married for 10 years now and we have a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son, and life in Arkansas is great.

Roger Ream [00:04:52] Good. That means in about 13 or 14 years we’ll expect to see your daughter and to welcome her to Washington to attend one of our programs.

David Ray [00:05:00] Absolutely.

Roger Ream [00:05:01] Go full circle that way. We’ve had a remarkable number of children of alumni attend our programs, and that’s just great, wonderful experience. No grandchildren yet, but that may be coming in a few years because we’ve been around for 55. So, after TFAS, what led you to Arkansas?

David Ray [00:05:23] So, I went to college in Arkansas. I went to University of the Ozarks and studied communications and political science there. After I graduated, really, the NRC, where I had interned, hired me to work for them for the 2000 election cycle. Instead of being in D.C., they needed me in the states. So, they sent me to spend time in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, and worked on those three Senate races, primarily doing opposition research and field research for the committee, and that was just a really great way to learn how campaigns work, and that sort of launched me on a trajectory where, like I said, the campaign bugged me hard. I moved to Virginia in 2009 and worked for Ken Cuccinelli on his attorney general’s race, and after that managed several campaigns. I moved to western Kansas and managed a congressional primary out there and helped elect former member of Congress there, Tim Huelskamp, managed an AG race in Kentucky in 2011 and managed another race for Congress in upstate New York in 2012. Jessica and I had been dating long distance through those years, and we decided to get married there in 2012. She sort of not-so-subtly indicated that we didn’t need to move every 12 months to work on a different campaign, and Arkansas was where I had some roots, having gone to school there, a lot of friends there from College Republicans that worked in politics. So it seemed like a natural fit for us to put down some roots and go back to work there. I worked for the state GOP there for a little while and was Tom Cotton’s communications director on the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign. Then I ran our state’s Americans for Prosperity chapter for a few years, served as chief of staff to our lieutenant governor at the time, Tim Griffin, who’s now our our Attorney General, and really, after serving in and around the legislature with Americans for Prosperity and then the lieutenant governor’s office, sort of became disillusioned in a lot of ways with how our Republican supermajorities were governing in Arkansas. When you observe the process up close, you sort of think to yourself, “How would I be able to impact this process? How can I make a difference?” I felt like I had something to contribute. So I threw my hat in the ring and won my race, and now I’m in my second term.

Roger Ream [00:08:04] It takes courage to put your hat in the ring and run for office, so I admire that. I know the one issue that you were passionate about when you ran was the tax issue and trying to do something. I know your neighboring home state of Tennessee does not have a state income, personal income tax. Arkansas, I guess, does. Are you hoping to repeal the income tax in Arkansas?

David Ray [00:08:33] Yeah, that is the long-term goal. I’ll back up and say that this issue that you brought up taxes really was the catalyst that sort of pushed me to run, to make that leap from working for candidates that I admire and want to help boost into, you know, trying to seek elective office for myself. In our 2019 session, we had six different tax increases that were passed in Arkansas. That just shocked me. In a deep red state with a nearly 80% Republican control of both the House and the Senate, a Republican governor, how could we pass six different tax increases? So, that really motivated me to run, and it was a big issue in my race. I was very much opposed to a big gas tax increase that was on the ballot. So, the income tax is something that I’ve been focused on for a long time because, you know, one of the most basic laws of economics is that you get more of what you incentivize and less of what you penalize, and the income tax penalizes all the wrong things. It penalizes work and labor and productivity, all things that we want more of, not less of as a society, as policymakers. You look to our west and to our east, Texas has no income tax, Tennessee has no income tax. You look at the states around the country where population is restoring itself, to Florida, to Arizona, to North Carolina, Indiana. These are all places that either have a very low income tax or no income tax at all. So I want Arkansas to move in that direction, to join that list. When I first started talking about this several years ago, I don’t think there was anyone in our state government besides my boss at the time, Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who really took this idea seriously and said, “Yeah, we can do it.” Everybody sort of pooh-poohed this idea that it’s pie in the sky, it’s never going to happen. People just make excuses all the time, right, for why we can’t do stuff. They say, “Oh, well, Nevada has all this tourism and Florida has beautiful beaches.” There are other states that don’t have those advantages. Tennessee doesn’t have Las Vegas, Tennessee doesn’t have beaches, and yet they have some similar levels of poverty to a state like Arkansas. So I thought we could do it. It’s just a matter of political will. I’ll tell you, now we have a governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has wholeheartedly endorsed this idea and is working on a plan to take us in that direction. I’m thrilled with where we’re headed as a state, and I think it’s a reality that we will see certainly within our lifetime, but hopefully much, much sooner.

Roger Ream [00:11:35] Well, speaking of your new governor, one of her first reforms she pushed, correct me if I’m wrong, but was it successfully implemented by the legislature, as somewhat of a universal school choice program? Is that right?

David Ray [00:11:49] Yeah, that’s right. So we passed, if you’re familiar with ESA (Education Savings Accounts), we pass those here. They’re called EFA’s. We put our own spin on it. They’re Educational Freedom Accounts, and they’ll be phased in over a three-year period. This is a huge deal. I mean, this is a game changer for parents. You know, I’ve always believed that the parents, not the government, should be the determiner of where and how their children are educated and that no child’s educational fate should be determined by either their parents’ income or by the zip code that they happen to be born into. These are all just arbitrary factors that in America people can’t control. We know that education is the great equalizer in terms of opportunity. It opens all sorts of doors for people to provide for themselves, for their families, to improve their lot in society, to change their family tree in a lot of ways. So, I was thrilled to see that happen. There was like everywhere else, the status quo doesn’t want to change, there was a lot of political pushback, but we were working hard to get this done for many years in the legislature with very little success. I’ll give our governor a lot of the credit for just having the focus and the determination and really taking the initiative to lead on this, because we’ve had a Republican governor for the last eight years. We’ve had Republican legislature control the legislature, but there wasn’t the political will to get it done, and Governor Sanders has provided that.

Roger Ream [00:13:46] Yeah, it seems to be at somewhat of a tipping point in terms of that issue. Several states have moved toward various forms of school choice programs, ESA’s and things like you did in Arkansas. I know Georgia tried and failed, came close, but again, with most Republicans controlling both houses, they failed to get it passed.

David Ray [00:14:10] This is the direction that society is headed more broadly in terms of choice. Consumers demand choice in almost every aspect, every facet of modern life. In this case, the government sets arbitrary limits on where and how you can educate your children. I mean, if we expect choice and competition with something as simple as where we buy our groceries or where we eat at restaurants, how much more important is it that we have choice and competition in an area as important as education? Think about how ridiculous it would be if the government said, “We have arbitrary grocery districts instead of school districts,” and said, “You want to go to that Whole Foods? You can’t go there. You go to the grocery in your assigned zone.” We would laugh at that concept, but that is sort of the way that we treat education, and that model is outmoded in many ways. So, we’re working to fix it.

Roger Ream [00:15:22] Yeah, it’s ironic that we think education’s so important and so vital that we aren’t going to have any choice.

David Ray [00:15:29] Right. I’ll say this: the traditional public school system always has and likely always will serve most students, and we need to do everything that we can to make our public schools as strong and successful and vibrant as they can be, and we did that in conjunction with this school choice program. We took Arkansas from being among the bottom five states in the country for starting teacher salary into the top five in the country for starting teacher salary. When you factor in the cost of living in Arkansas, I believe if you adjust for that factor, we’re number one. We invested heavily in literacy coaches, in high need tutoring, all these sorts of things to give our public schools the tools that they need to be successful.

Roger Ream [00:16:24] Did the bill then have support of a lot of teachers? Even if maybe the unions didn’t support it.

David Ray [00:16:33] I think there are a lot of teachers that supported this legislation. I can tell you, the Arkansas teacher of the year is a constituent of mine that lives in my district, and she came and spoke in favor of the legislation. So I heard from a lot of teachers who did like this. There were some who didn’t like it. I think that that was largely for a couple of factors. One, there are some who are just politically not inclined to support reform, and then two, a lot of them were being told false and misleading information by outside groups that were agitating for political reasons against the bill. I don’t think anybody’s conducted any polling of teachers specifically in Arkansas on this, but from the teachers I heard from, there were a good many who were very appreciative that we worked on the raise issue as much as we did. So I think it had good support.

Roger Ream [00:17:43] Well, it seems like a lot of the impetus for these reforms is COVID. Parents were sitting near the computers that their kids were on during virtual classes and began to get more alarmed. And just today in the morning paper, I haven’t read the details, but the latest test in civics, eighth grade civics and history, it’s just abysmal. It’s the worst performance we’ve ever had of eighth graders in the United States. I think 13% of eighth graders were able to pass a basic test on civic and American history and civics. So, we have to do something to turn that around if we hope to continue to be a free country.

David Ray [00:18:27] Absolutely. I think you make a great point. One of the reasons, in my opinion, that we’re picking up so much momentum on this issue in states across the country is because of what happened during the pandemic with extended school shutdowns, unions resisting opening the schools,  even much longer after it was safe to do so, that the compulsory masking requirements that seemed to last forever, the virtual learning that was ineffective in many instances, the curriculum that parents saw their students learning that they had no idea they were learning. Sometimes about radical and divisive concepts. All these things, I think, contributed because historically, from a polling perspective, people who prioritize education very highly as a political issue, they tend to skew strongly in favor of Democrats. But the pandemic really shifted a lot of those numbers, and you really saw the tangible results of that in that Virginia election, where Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe after he said something to the effect of parents don’t have any business knowing or dictating what goes on in the classroom.

Roger Ream [00:20:00] Well, let me ask you this, being in the legislature there – is it a full-time legislature? Are you a few months a year? How do they meet? What kind of schedule do you follow there?

David Ray [00:20:13] So, we’re considered a part-time legislature in odd numbered years like this one, 2023. We go in the first week of January and we’re usually in for about somewhere between 90 and 110 days. That’s our general lawmaking session, and then we come back in the even numbered years and we have a budget session. In between there’s all sorts of interim meetings that committees continue to meet. You obviously have constituent responsibilities in your district and all sorts of things. So, when you run, they tell you it’s part time, but if you’re trying to do your job well and be attentive to the needs of your constituents and really give all the issues the attention that they deserve, it takes up enough hours that it really doesn’t feel like it’s part time a lot of the time.

Roger Ream [00:21:08] We have young alumni who listen to this podcast. Is it something you would recommend to young people to consider? I mean, obviously we need good people to run for office, but it’s a tough lifestyle, I imagine, especially if you don’t live near the capital. You’re fortunate you do, but it’s hard otherwise.

David Ray [00:21:32] That was an important consideration for me, honestly, that I do live not too far from our seat of government. But yes, it’s something that I would recommend to people. We need good people serving in local levels of government and in state government and in the federal government. That doesn’t necessarily mean elected office. It can be any number of roles. I feel strongly about serving at the state level. You know, philosophically, I believe that our founders intended for states to be the preeminent unit of government, and obviously cities and counties are creations of the state and subject to the laws of the state. Honestly, the states are commonly referenced as the laboratories of democracy. This is where a lot of change takes place. I’ve worked for many years to help elect people to important federal offices like Congress and Senate, but just the nature of our government is that you can work in the Congress for a decade and not do so much as change the name on a post office. But in the state government, that’s where things can really happen that have a real-world impact on people’s lives. I’ve been in the legislature for going on three years now, and in my first session, I passed seven different laws, and in my second session I passed 17 different laws. I was the lead sponsor in the House on those. So, it is an area where you’re not just spinning your wheels, right? You’re not just trying to get headlines on TV or likes or tweets. You’re really pursuing solutions in your state, trying to make your state the best possible place that it can be to live, work, raise a family, start a business, grow a business, and pass it on to the next generation. So that’s what appeals most about it to me.

Roger Ream [00:23:51] Now, I’ve got to ask you the question, have you managed to repeal any laws?

David Ray [00:23:56] I have, yes. So, some of the laws that I pass are going back and repealing other laws. Sometimes when I speak to a group of fellow conservatives, I’ll mention, “I passed this many laws,” and there’s sort of a collective groan. While that’s true that more laws are certainly not always good, I’ll remind them that some of the laws that I passed go back and repeal old laws, but also many of the laws that I worked to pass are laws that restrict the power of government, that make government smaller and more limited in ways that it is respectful of the rights of citizens. Prohibiting local governments, for example, from frustrating state policy in several areas, and working to protect our taxpayers. I did teach some classes as a student at University of the Ozarks, since you brought it up, I’ve always thought that the teaching would be something that that I would enjoy, and especially talking about things that matter. Yesterday I was working on a speech for a local Lions club that I was going to give on what is the role of a representative, and talking about is it to represent the wishes of your constituents or in more of the Edmund Burke model, or are you selected to use your own wisdom and industry and judgment on behalf of the citizens? These are some of the timeless debates. I really enjoy that kind of stuff, and if someone were to give me the opportunity to be an adjunct somewhere that would be something I would be interested in.

Roger Ream [00:25:54] Yeah, I think if it was purely to reflect your constituents, then we could just use an AI to fill in for your voting instead of having David Ray there to use his judgment.

David Ray [00:26:05] I’ve had this conversation with a lot of my constituents. One day I walked out of the chamber and there was a guy who was sort of hunched over his desk and he was making tally marks on a sheet of paper. And I said, “Hey, what are you doing there?” And he literally said, “I’m adding up how many people emailed me Yes on this issue versus No on this issue so I know how to vote.” And I just said, “Look, you should take all of that under consideration, but tally marks is a really horrible way to make up your mind.” Of all the factors to hinge your vote on, tally marks based on the number of emails is a bad way to come to a conclusion.

Roger Ream [00:26:50] I’m sure it doesn’t really reflect even the consensus of his constituents because some people tend to be more motivated to email than others, depending on the issue. It seems like, you know, it’s been observed by others that there’s a propensity for government to grow because the benefits of a program are very concentrated, and the costs are very diffused. In other words, as you know, you pass a special program to help some group, they’re going to spend money on lobbying and emailing congressmen because they’re getting this benefit from government. The cost is so spread out among tens of thousands or millions of taxpayers, that doesn’t pay me as a taxpayer to even spend money on postage to write a letter to my representative, because the cost of that program would be so small and I don’t even hear about it, unlike that lobby group that’s going to push hard. How do we counter that trend in the federal level, the state level, that it’s easy for special interests to push their agenda and for taxpayers just to stay quiet and then get socked with the cost?

David Ray [00:28:01] The problem that you outlined is one that I see almost daily in state government. I’ll give you a couple of examples that I see. I was on the Revenue and Tax committee this time around. I can’t begin to explain to you how many bills are filed each session for the very narrow purpose of exempting this or that, X or Y, from the tax code. All of these things are done if you factor in opportunity costs at the expense of broad-based lower rates for all taxpayers. But the special interests will fight very hard to get their specific carve out. Another area that I’ve seen this a lot is regarding occupational licensing. I remember a bill that I worked on with a colleague of mine in my first session, and it was to exempt hair washers, people who just wanted to wash hair from the cosmetology license, because there was a girl in my colleague’s district, a young lady who had Down’s syndrome, and cognitively she was just not able to pass the cosmetology exam. Her dream in life was to work for a salon. She was capable and very good at washing hair and styling hair. So we came up with this bill to just exclude hair washing and styling, if you weren’t using scissors or chemicals, from the cosmetology license, and you would have thought that we were… I’m struggling to come up with an analogy…

Roger Ream [00:29:50] It might mean the end of civilization itself.

David Ray [00:29:53] The pushback on this bill was more than almost any bill I’ve ever been involved with. I just remember having these conversations with people, saying, “I don’t understand what the legitimate government safety and health concerns with washing hair are because I washed my hair this morning, and I wash my hair every morning, and I don’t have a license to do it. And it worked out just fine.” These people who were in the industry and who were good people, but they were just looking out for their own turf in this instance, didn’t want this to come to pass. We see this problem all the time. We did end up passing that bill, by the way, and it’s led to an expansion of businesses in our state. We now have blow dry bars that have popped up across central Arkansas, in northwest Arkansas, that didn’t exist here before, and the young woman that the law is named after, she’s gainfully employed now.

Roger Ream [00:30:53] That’s wonderful.

David Ray [00:30:56] To your question about how we fix that, the only thing that I have come up with, there’s two things. One, you must have people elected to office who have the philosophical underpinnings that make them aware of problems like this and give them the courage and the intellectual fortitude to resist it. So that just goes back to – you have to elect good people and good people have to run and they have to win. But also, to the extent that we can, taxpayers have to organize as well. I remember this was a big struggle back for several sessions in a row when I worked for Americans for Prosperity. We fought increases in the gas tax. And the people pushing for the increases would say, “Oh, it’s only going to cost you, you know, $0.40 to fill up.” It’s hard for taxpayers oftentimes to get mad over $0.40. But the collective, the cumulative effect of all of these tax increases on top of one another can make your state a very uncompetitive state to compete for jobs and economic growth. So groups, like I used to work for Americans for Prosperity, groups like that can organize taxpayers and urge them to act. That can sort of be a counterbalance to some of the special interest groups and people who feel strongly about issues like this. I would encourage them to get to know their legislators to cultivate a relationship with them. You know, a lot of times people assume that their elected officials are distant and far off and hard to reach. That may be the case in Congress. But for your local state legislators, I represent about 30,000 people. I have constituents all the time that call me on my cell phone, text me. I put my cell phone on my website. It’s not hard to get to know people in local elected office, and once you have that relationship, you can talk to them about issues that are important to you.

Roger Ream [00:33:21] Well, congratulations on the success you had on the hair washing. There are so many areas where licensing laws cut off opportunity and it is really to the least in our society, who could get on that first rung of the economic ladder to success if they could get those jobs. One of the founders of an organization called the Institute for Justice, Clint Bolick, is an alumnus of our program who I had on earlier, sometime last year on a podcast. They fought for the right of monks in Louisiana to make caskets, wooden caskets for people to be buried in, because the funeral directors were fighting them. They fought for the rights of so many in so many professions where licensing laws cut off opportunity for people. Even what we saw with Uber and Lyft to some extent, of trying to prevent people from using their car to transport people unless they had an expensive taxi medallion.

David Ray [00:34:25] Since you gave Institute for Justice a shout out, I should mention that they helped us tremendously with our law in Arkansas that we worked on. They’ve been involved in many, many laws and lawsuits in Arkansas on this front. They were involved in helping us get African style hair braiding exempted from the cosmetology license. We had a taxicab monopoly in the city of Little Rock, and they filed a lawsuit several years ago, a public interest suit on behalf of an independent taxi driver that was denied a license there. And they got that that restriction struck down. They do great work and have done great work in Arkansas, too.

Roger Ream [00:35:05] Arkansas is seeing freedom blossom. On the income tax, what is the pushback is probably that we can’t repeal it because we need the source of revenue to fund all these programs that the state runs. Are proposing it be phased out and substituted by other taxes, or your goal there is if you get rid of the income tax, at least people then feel the taxes they pay more, and that will be a restraint on the growth of government?

David Ray [00:35:42] My view on this is we need to gradually but as quickly as possible lower our rates until we get to the point where we can phase it out entirely. And you do that in several ways, right? The first and foremost, the biggest thing you have to do is control the growth of state spending, because unlike Washington, we can’t print our own money here. So if you can dedicate a portion, a sizable portion of your economic growth toward reducing taxpayer’s burden, then that’s going to go a long way toward lowering your rates. The second thing is you’ve got to find ways to reduce spending in state government. I mean, the first step is stopping and slowing the growth of spending. The second thing is finding ways to eliminate spending. That is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work. You’ve got to dig into issues and figure out how the state is managing its real estate portfolio, how it’s managing state vehicle fleets, how we’re managing our employee benefit programs, how many state employees we have per capita and how we compare to other states. Where can we adjust and consolidate and reform and transform government in a way that saves money through IT, through all these different buckets? You save 20 million here. You save 50 million there, 75 million there. Pretty soon you’re talking about knocking several tenths of a percent off your income tax, and it really accelerates the pace that you can go. In other states, it’s been proposed a lot that you raise this tax in order to compensate for something else, I don’t really have much interest in doing that because I think at the end of the day, our taxpayers are concerned about their overall tax burden. They’re not as upset over whether you’re taking out of their left pocket or their right pocket. They just notice that it’s gone from their pocket, right? If there are carve outs or exemptions that we can build consensus around eliminating that can help pick up the pace, then that’s something that I’d be willing to look at and consider, but not really raising other rates because if you look at our sales tax, Arkansas already has the third highest sales tax in the entire country when you combine state and local rates. So, we really don’t have much room to go up in any other significant categories.

Roger Ream [00:38:32] What is your top income tax rate? Is it graduated?

David Ray [00:38:36] Yes, it is. It is a graduated rate. Our top rate is now as of today, it’s 4.7. But just eight years ago we were at 7.0. So, we have made a lot of progress in this arena. I mentioned there’s so many people who, especially in the early days talking about this idea, they would just pooh-pooh it and say, “This is never going to happen.” And I would say, “What if I’m totally wrong, what if I’m completely off base and we only get to two and a half percent instead of zero?” How bad would that stink? No, it wouldn’t. It would be doggone awesome to be a state with universal school choice and a two and a half percent flat income tax. We’d be cooking with gas if we were in that position. So, from a competitiveness standpoint, we’d be attracting new movers and jobs right and left. So, I tell them, “This is a goal worth pursuing. No matter if we succeed 100% or 75%.”

Roger Ream [00:39:43] Well, David, about the time that this podcast is released, we’ll be welcoming about 300 college students to Washington, D.C., for our summer programs from colleges and universities around the country. Want to offer any advice to them that I can share with them at our orientation program?

David Ray [00:40:03] I would just say the time goes fast. It will be over before you know it. Make the most of every day that you have there. Make the most of the opportunities and the tours that you’re availed of. Make connections at your internships because you never know what sorts of opportunities those will turn into down the road. Just take full advantage of it every day and you never know, you may end up meeting your future spouse there.

Roger Ream [00:40:37] I regret we didn’t have Jessica join you today, but I appreciate so much the chance to talk to you. It’s exciting things you’re doing in Arkansas for the people of Arkansas. We have a congressman, a U.S. congressman from North Carolina now, a U.S. congressman from West Tennessee, David Kustoff, who’s a TFAS alumnus.

David Ray [00:40:59] Yes, he’s my parents’ Congressman.

Roger Ream [00:41:02] If you ever think about looking at a higher office, we’d have that whole belt across the center of our country if you came to Washington.

David Ray [00:41:14] I wish I had known that; I met him last year at the at a taping of Mike Huckabee show in Nashville and got a chance to visit with him. He seems like a great guy.

Roger Ream [00:41:28] He and the North Carolina congressman is David Rouzer, both Davids. They’re going to speak to our students this summer as they do most summers, host them up on Capitol Hill for a briefing on the floor of the House of Representatives. I’ll mention to him that we have a member of the Arkansas legislature whose parents are in his district, and next time you see him, you can share your common experience with TFAS.

David Ray [00:41:51] That’s great. Roger, thank you so much for everything you’ve done and continue to do at TFAS. This program, I believe, left an indelible mark on my life and with memories that will last a lifetime. I just appreciate everything you do.

Roger Ream [00:42:09] Well, thank you. We’ll do our best again this summer to make a difference and teach kids the importance of economic freedom and its connections to human flourishing. So, thank you. It’s been a pleasure. All the best to you, David.

David Ray [00:42:21] You too, Roger. Thanks.

Roger Ream [00:42:24] Thank you for listening to the Liberty and Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you liked this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty and Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host, Roger Ream, and until next time, show courage in things large and small.

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