Over the past few days, the state’s two main political parties have engaged in a war of words over the issue of taxes.
There have been press releases sent out by both parties and the respective Party spokespersons debated the tax issue on last Sunday’s Talk Business TV show.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas contends that State Republicans likely want to replace the state income tax with a sales tax based on the GOP’s recently approved Party platform. Republicans contend that Arkansas Democrats are lying about the tax issue.
Who to believe? Where did Arkansas Democrats ever get the idea that Republicans want to increase the sales tax?
Probably from the Republic Party of Arkansas’s own platform.
Just two short years ago, the Arkansas Republicans’ Party platform officially called for eliminating the state income tax and replacing it with a sales tax increase.
From their 2010 platform:
“Replace State Income Tax by a more equitable method such as increasing State Sales Tax. Everyone would pay the same percentage and would know they are paying their fair share for government services available to all citizens. The maximum increase in state sales tax would be limited to no more than 2 percent.”
Here is what the 2012 Republic Party platform now says on state taxes:
“Replace the State Income Tax with a more equitable method of taxation.”
Were Arkansas Republicans for a sales tax increase before they were against it?
Notice how Republicans used the same phrase “equitable method” in both 2010 and 2012, but this year they made the rest of the tax platform more vague. The only real difference is that Republicans don’t want to admit their plan is to raise the sales tax like they did two years ago.
It must be noted that four current Republican State Representatives were on the 2010 Platform Committee: Ann Clemmer, Davy Carter, Nate Bell and Prissy Hickerson. Carter contends he does not recall participating on the 2010 Committee that called for a sales tax increase and he is opposed to raising it. Did the other three State Legislators support increasing the sales tax?
During the war of words between the two political parties, the Republic Party of Arkansas never repudiated their previous position for increasing the sales tax.
However, Republicans laughably tried to change subject with the notion that Arkansas Democrats support same-sex marriage — they do not however — because in 2006 the plank support for traditional marriage was removed from the Party platform. It was removed because in 2004 Arkansas passed an amendment specifically defining traditional marriage making those lines in the Party platform irrelevant. Next thing Republicans will do is decry the fact that Democrats no longer mention their support for a woman’s right to vote.
The larger issue, however, is Arkansas Republicans want to replace a revenue stream that funds roughly 50% of state government, but refuse to outline how they plan to do it.
If they want to replace the state income tax, they either must cut services or raise taxes, or possibly a combination of both. It’s simple math, but Arkansas Republicans refuse to outline their plans. Typically, when Republicans propose tax cuts or tax reform it means slight tax cuts for the middle class, but major tax cuts for the wealthy.
In the end, based on Arkansas Republicans’ previous official support for replacing the state income tax with a regressive sales tax, I’m inclined to believe that is what they hope to eventually do.