There won’t be a gun fight on the floor of the Arkansas House anytime soon, but there will be another shootout of competing philosophies, especially when it comes to the contentious issues of taxes and guns.
State Representatives Charlie Collins and Charles Blake are on different sides of the aisle and opposed each other on legislation in both arenas, but in a spirited roundtable discussion on Talk Business & Politics Daily, the two legislators laid out their thoughts on what should happen next before the 2019 legislative session.
“What I hope is going to be accomplished is that we make the tax code fairer, that we simplify the tax code, and that we do things that are going to help our low-wage earners in the state of Arkansas,” said Blake, a Democratic state representative from Little Rock, discussing his thoughts on what he hopes a newly convened task force on tax reform will address.
He supported the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over the income tax reduction for low-income Arkansans in the last session. “It would have cost less and done more,” he said. “I hope we get around to seeing the merits of that proposal.”
Collins, a Republican representing Fayetteville, said it’s time for the tax reform debate to move to higher income job creators. In the past two sessions, tax cuts have been passed for low income and middle income Arkansans.
“I think one of the core things that needs to come out of this [task force] work is actually focusing on job creators and those higher income earners and the kind of workers we want to get more of in Arkansas,” Collins said.
An effort to raise more sales tax revenue is likely to get a second look from the task force. Lawmakers nearly passed a measure that would have taxed items purchased on the Internet, a move that state revenue officials say could bring an additional $100 million into the tax coffers.
Another area of tax policy that will be reviewed and debated centers on the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax exemptions on the books.
“The whole idea of eliminating exemptions will be a donnybrook,” Collins said. “In my view, we’re either going to have one or the other. Either we’re going to really tackle in a serious way a lot of these exemptions and say, ‘everybody’s in the same boat’ — the idea of broadening the base and lowering the rates.”
Both men agree that luxury items should be taxed if they are currently exempted.
GUNS ON CAMPUS AND BEYOND
Collins was the catalyst for the one issue that dominated the 91st General Assembly — guns on college campuses. The final version of that new law allowed for concealed carry permit holders to have guns in locations far beyond college campuses. There were also last-minute exemptions carved out to keep guns out of sports arenas, the state hospital and the UAMS campus.
Collins noted that all versions of the measure had broad near-super majority votes, but he says he does not expect to come with more legislation in 2019 unless warranted.
“I feel very good about where we landed,” he said. “At this time, I don’t see an improvement to make to the bill as we’ve laid that out… I’m not currently planning anything of that nature, but I’m always open to ideas.”
Blake said he’ll be watching the enactment of the law over the next year with an eye toward adding more exemptions he deems necessary.
“There’s just some places that guns should never be,” he said calling for more exemptions to the new law. “We have to nail down to where we are going to be logical and use common sense and say, ‘guns should not be here’ regardless of if you think it’s a deterrent or not.”
Watch their full roundtable discussion in the video below.