Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TOP STORY >> Lawmakers supporting tax cuts

Leader senior staff writer

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s middle-income tax cut, which he says is his first order of business, could be law by the end of next week, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy).

The governor’s tax cuts would reduce general revenues by $102 million annually by fiscal year 2017, starting with a $2 million reduction for the current year and about $34 million in fiscal year 2016, according to Senate Bill 6.

Dismang, the lead Senate sponsor of the SB6—the tax-cut bill—says, “It will be presented Wednesday to the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, with a vote expected Thursday. It will go to the House and probably get a vote next week.”

If it passes both houses, it would then lack only the governor’s signature.


Also Thursday, Hutchinson is slated to tour the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and to discuss the private option in a speech.

There doesn’t seem to be any organized opposition to the tax-cut bill, which could put another $300 to $500 a year in the pockets of residents earning between $21,000 to $75,000 a year by the time it’s fully implemented in 2017.

There are small-er tax cuts for those with lower incomes—a tenth of 1 percent for those earning less than $21,000 a year, and there are adjustments to keep those earning more than $75,000 from being kicked into a higher bracket.

Dismang, who is rounding up cosponsors in the Senate, says House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) will be the lead sponsor in the House.

Gillam’s spokesperson, Cecily Pond-Mayo, says Gillam is waiting to see the details of the Senate bill before he makes any further comment.

SB6 would reduce the effective net tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent for those earning between $21,000 and $35,099 a year, or from 7 percent to 6 percent for those earning between $35,100 to $75,000.

Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) favors the tax cuts but has some other issues he’s interested in, like making sure there is state matching money available for schools with substandard facilities.


“I really want to be sure we have enough money for the buildings (the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District) and other needs.”

“We’re all in favor of the tax cuts,” House said. “There’s enough cuts and income growth to cover it, and we don’t need to repeal previous cuts.”

“I’m seeing way too many programs that are nice to have but not necessary. We’re all kind of waiting for the governor’s budget,” he added.

House said public defenders are overwhelmed by their caseloads, and he wants to see the General Assembly provide money for more public defenders before someone sues for inadequate counsel or the federal courts intervene.

He also wants to hear what the governor found out when he was in Washington about what sort of changes would be allowable under the private option.

Rep. Tim Lemons, the Cabot engineer elected to take former Speaker Davy Carter’s seat in the House, said Tuesday that the tax bill hasn’t made its way to the House, but that he didn’t know of any opposition to it.

“We should get the first draft copy this week,” he said.

Lemons said the House passed a couple of housekeeping measures Tuesday, but that freshman lawmakers like him are “still building the learning curve.”


Lemons, who is also a former Lonoke County Quorum Court member, said he’s working on a bill that would alter the current law requiring cities and counties to budget only 90 percent of their anticipated revenue.

He says he likes the idea, but that those governments shouldn’t be required to include “flow-through” money in that 10 percent.

“It could make a difference of a couple hundred thousand dollars for Lonoke County,” he said. “I’m taking it to legislative research tomorrow.”