So far, the fiscal session has been a snoozefest. Please note, I am not complaining; it is supposed to be that way. It is designed to focus almost exclusively on fiscal matters and appropriation bills. But I still had a very hard time typing that sentence without falling asleep.
Regardless, the first vote that had at least some degree of drama was cast in the House today. HCR1009 is a resolution that would authorize the legislature to take up repealing the sales tax exemption given to primarily in-state truckers during the last fiscal session.
The tax break was part of a bigger deal that was made with the trucking industry in exchange for their support of the nickel increase in the diesel fuel tax. The cut was designed to offset the increased tax burden on fuel by offering this exemption for trucks licensed in Arkansas, thereby giving in-state trucking companies a break and shifting the tax burden to trucks passing through the state.
After the session, the trucking company pulled their support from the diesel tax hike, which effectively killed any chance of it passing. Now, the legislature is considering repealing the tax cut since there will be no tax increase that it is designed to offset.
Today’s House vote was not on the actual bill that would repeal this cut, but rather on the resolution to take up the issue during the fiscal session. But for practical purposes, this vote is the biggest hurdle as it requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers to take up the issue and then only a simple majority to pass after that.
The resolution passed 81 to 15 with the Republican minority split with 15 Republicans voting against the resolution and 29 voting for it. Two Republicans were not present.
The Republicans opposing it see the measure as a tax increase which they have committed to oppose. Interestingly enough, those who signed Americans for Tax Reform’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” split rather evenly with only 6 of the 16 signers voting against it.
“I am focused on creating jobs and making Arkansas more business friendly,” said Rep. David Meeks (R-Conway) following the vote. “This tax cut I believe will do just that. If a deal was made, it should have been written into the original legislation.”
The resolution now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass.
A couple of interesting footnotes. Rep. Tim Summers (R-Bentonville), who is known as a relatively moderate Republican, voted against the measure today. Summers is facing a difficult primary against Bart Hester and is no doubt looking to beef up his voting record.
Also of note, Rep. Linda Tyler (D-Conway) was at the capitol today, but was missing from this vote. She is facing a general election Senate race against Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) who is about as far to the right as anyone in the Senate.
It will also be interesting to note how legislators vote on the final bill. We could see some who voted for the resolution switch and vote against the final bill. They could point to the final vote, not the resolution vote, in saying they voted against it.