Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Legislature passes tax cut

Leader senior staff writer

Without dissent, Sen. Bobby Glover’s bill to eliminate another penny in state sales tax from grocery items passed through both houses of the General Aassembly and could be signed by Gov. Mike Beebe as early as today.

The bill, which passed the Senate 34-0, was returned from the House with an amendment naming all 100 House members as co-sponsors, Glover said.

Glover, D-Carlisle, said he’d have liked to have seen it passed much earlier, but House Speaker Robbie Wills said even before the start of the session that he didn’t want to rush into it until he saw how the state’s finances were looking further into the session.

“Sometimes you have to be patient on those type of things,” Glover said.

Beebe cut three cents off the grocery tax his first session, part of his campaign pledge to get rid of the tax, and he felt the state could afford to take another penny off this year, Glover said. The penny cut will save consumers—and cost the state--$40 million, but the loss of that revenue already was built into the governor’s budget.

The tax cut takes effect July 1.

Both tax cuts combined saved consumers and cost the state about $160 million a year, said Glover, who handled both tax-cut bills in the Senate for the governor.

“It couldn’t have gone any smoother,” the senator said.

On the House side, representatives Walls McCrary, D-Lonoke, and Rick Saunders, D-Hot Springs, handled the bill. McCrary is a freshman legislator and Saunders is a veteran considering a run for the state Senate at the end of his term.

Glover said the state’s poorest residents already receive food stamps and didn’t pay grocery tax on items purchased with them. Many low- and moderate-income residents will get some relief, especially at a time when grocery prices are escalating, he said.

Glover, who suffered a stroke shortly before the beginning of the session, has been active with several bills.

He will be termed out at the end of this term and because of his stroke, he said previously that he had changed his mind and would not seek the secretary of state’s office.

But now, he says he’s about 80 percent recovered, and people around him are encouraging him not to rule out a run to replace Charlie Daniels as secretary of state.

“I want to see how things work out,” Glover said Tuesday.

Among his other bills, Glover is promoting two that change the way appointments to commissions are made.

Those two bills—one for the state Pardon and Parole Board and the other for the state Correction Department Board—would require at least one commissioner from each of the state’s four congressional districts.