Rep. Joe Jett, chairman of the House Revenue and Tax committee and a member of the Legislative Tax Reform Task Force, says he is “open-minded” and refuses to be “put into a box” at this point on any direction that tax policy changes may go. That said, he wouldn’t mind seeing a highway plan tied to the work of the task force of 16 state legislators.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics with contributor Jessica DeLoach Sabin, Jett said all exemptions should be reviewed and he’s not set on any particular change until he hears everyone’s arguments.
“I think everything should be open, and I think we need to figure out what we’re going to go after and how we’re going to do it,” said Jett, a Republican from Success, Arkansas. “On the tax exemptions, for example, I would like to see we have a tax exemption, we’re giving this industry $100 million or whatever, it’s got to make so many jobs and so much dollars. In other words, it’s got to have a parameter and a threshold to get to, and that’s the type of stuff I want to start tackling because it’s easy to say that we’re going to go out and start cutting for upper [income] Arkansans or lower [income] Arkansans, but until you figure out how you’re going to do that, I don’t know how you get to that point.”
Jett contends that if Arkansas had been more strategic in its tax cut policy over the last nine years, the state could have used the $556 million in tax cuts to bring the individual income tax bracket down to a level below 3%. Currently, the highest tax bracket in the state is 6.9%. In the last two legislative sessions, lawmakers have cut taxes on middle income and low income earners.
Although the tax task force is on a hard deadline to complete some of its work by September, Jett also says highways and tax reform can go hand-in-hand.
“Highways are not sexy enough to get involved in,” said Jett. On a legislative panel earlier in the week, several lawmakers noted that it may unfortunately take a catastrophe such as a bridge collapse or loss of life to convince a majority of lawmakers and the public to pay more for road construction and maintenance.
“It all ties together because we’re talking about revenue. I would actually like to see the task force have the highway plan inside of it,” said Jett. “It’s an extremely heavy lift.”
Watch the full roundtable discussion with Rep. Jett, Jessica DeLoach Sabin and TB&P host Roby Brock in the video below.