story by Ryan Saylor
It may not be the way a candidate wants to introduce themselves to potential voters, but it was exactly what happened to Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood. A mailer delivered to voters in Senate District 9 identified promises Holland claims to have kept since first being elected to the Arkansas Senate in 2010. The first promise?
"Cut taxes by over $175 annually.”
In a telephone call Wednesday (April 2), Holland made clear that the tax cut was much larger, and that the mailer missed an important word.
"It was supposed to be $175 million, that's the combination of all the tax cuts passed last session — the income tax, the capital gains tax, tax cuts for veterans, the grocery tax — a combination of all of those taxes.”
He also said he would like to continue pursuing tax cuts should he be elected, and said he was in favor of former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson's tax plan, unveiled as part of the former congressman's campaign for governor. The plan would reduce the income tax rate from 7% to 6% for Arkansans earning between $34,000 to $75,000 a year, and from 6% to 5% for those earning between $20,400 to $33,999 annually, according to a report by Talk Business.
"I support reducing the state income tax," he said. "I think that's important to economic development and I think it's the right thing to do. Arkansas has one of the highest (tax rates) among neighboring states. The more Arkansans have in their pocket, the more spending power they have.”
Holland said he was a co-sponsor on many of the tax cut bills and voted for them all.
Also in the mailer, the senator boasted that he "Co-Sponsored and helped pass the most pro-life legislation in the country," which he explained was the 12-week abortion plan, which was recently struck down by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber, who said the bill was unconstitutional, citing other court decisions that do not restrict abortion until the fetus is “viable."
While the law was struck down, Holland said he was proud to have voted for the legislation.
"When something is important to your constituents, you vote for it. It is very important to the people that I represent. I campaigned on being pro-life. That's what my voters expect me to do and I represent them.”
He took issue with the judge's ruling, saying that the bill "should stand up to Constitutional scrutiny.”
"But you take that chance with any bill you pass. A lot of the legislation does get challenged. But it doesn't mean you don't do the right thing and vote in favor (of it).”
It was during his discussion of his pro-Second Amendment views that he took one of the first noticeable shots of the 2014 primary at Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, who is challenging Holland's re-election. The mailer said Holland had passed "legislation to expand gun (owner's) rights," and Holland explained during the interview that his pro-gun record was solid.
"The Advanced Arkansas Institute gives me a 100% ranking with the Second Amendment and gives Terry a 74%, based on the bills presented last session.”
Holland also said he was in support of Act 746, which is caused much controversy as Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said the bill does not allow for open carry of firearms, while several prosecutors across the state have said it does and have directed officers to not arrest anyone openly carrying.
Rice was quick to respond in an e-mail, calling Holland's claim nothing more than "scare tactics.”
"My commitment to the 2nd Amendment is clear. I’m a lifetime member of the NRA, a concealed carry permit holder, I was a co-sponsor of Act 746 [the Open-Carry bill] in the last legislative session, I have voted to allow concealed handguns in places of worship, I voted to allow concealed handguns on college campuses, I have voted to protect the confidential information of concealed carry permit holders, and I voted to prohibit the Governor from regulating firearms in emergencies.”
Holland's mailer is not the first to show up across the district. A mailer from Rice attempts to tie Holland to Obamacare through his votes in favor of the private option, which uses federal funding to purchase health insurance for low income Arkansans who qualify.
In his statement to The City Wire, Rice said Holland was the deciding vote on the legislation.
"In the last campaign, he put out flyers and mail pieces stating that he would help to stop Obamacare here in Arkansas. That is not a promise kept. That is a promise broken. He voted for the implementation of Obamacare in the 2013 regular session and again in the fiscal session of 2014. In fact, he was the deciding vote in the state senate to pass it during the fiscal session. I have consistently voted against implementing Obamacare here in Arkansas. This was the largest expansion of government in Arkansas history. Again, that is a promise broken, not a promise kept.”
Holland challenged Rice's point, saying he was not voting to implement Obamacare.
"Terry is misleading folks. The Private Option is not Obamacare. It is federal law that governs all insurance. Everyone in the state of Arkansas that has insurance at all has Obamacare. I don't have a vote on it. That's a federal issue. …We never voted for the Affordable Care Act in the Arkansas state legislature. That is very misleading to the people of Arkansas.”
He added that he was not the deciding vote on the Private Option in the Senate.
"I voted when my name was called. Now if voting in the middle of the pack, if 'H' is the deciding vote, then I guess I did (cast the deciding vote)," Holland said jokingly. "But it was the right thing to do, whether I was the first vote or the last vote. It was the right thing to do. That's why I voted that way.”
The 9th Senate District includes parts of Crawford, Franklin, Scott and Sebastian Counties. The statewide Republican primary will be held May 20.