Senator: Effort to expand pharmacists’ roles moving forward; no consensus on tax cuts

by George Jared ([email protected]) 647 views 

Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, is carrying a load of legislation this session. Two areas where he is leading efforts involve expanded pharmacy services and tax reform.

In an interview with Talk Business & Politics, Wallace discussed SB 176, which would allow pharmacists to treat patients suffering from certain conditions such as influenza, pharyngitis, lice, cold sores, skin conditions, motion sickness, and more.

Wallace said the bill isn’t meant to stop people from going to the doctor. He hopes it provides more medical attention for people living in rural Arkansas.

“It’s always a turf issue. Everybody is worried how it will affect me personally. But the real bottom line for me is we have to look at Arkansas as a whole,” he said. “We’ve got individuals out there that may have a hard time getting to a doctor, who may be two towns away, but might have a local pharmacy right there.”

SB176 is awaiting consideration in the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. Wallace said he’s not sure when the bill will move before the committee.

“What we’re doing now is the [Arkansas] Medical Society is working with the pharmacists and they’re trying to reach a position where everybody agrees to it. A compromise is always great. If you can get people where everybody agrees, they’re not all completely happy, but they’re kind of happy with what things you’re doing and they can meet in the middle. That’s always the best way to do it,” he said.

Wallace is also the lead sponsor on SB 10, a bill that would create a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). There are myriad tax cut proposals floating in committees in the Arkansas Legislature. It’s not clear which bill could garner enough support at this point to pass, Wallace said.

Through talks with colleagues who have similar and competing tax reform measures, Wallace said he believes there will be at least $50 million in tax relief this session in some form. His EITC bill would give those who make $50,000 or less an earned income tax credit when they file their taxes.

“It’s a great bill for the folks that are working in the state of Arkansas. I believe that we will have some tax relief. Which bill makes it through the hoop and gets in, we’re all scrambling for right now,” said Wallace, vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee.

SB 10 will mirror the federal EITC program.

The federal EITC is a refundable income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families, based on the taxpayer’s income level and number of qualifying children, as calculated under Internal Revenue Code. The state EITC would provide an amount equal to 10% of the credit allowed to a taxpayer under the federal EITC, effective for tax years beginning January 1, 2021.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration calculates SB 10 will cost about $77 million per year in lost revenue for state coffers. It will require nearly $350,000 per year to administer.

Other tax reform measures include a competing EITC bill, a restructuring of income tax brackets, and the elimination of a low-income tax bracket for those making under $23,000 annually.

Wallace admits that no tax cut bill has gained serious traction yet, but he hopes his bill, which is before the state Senate Tax and Revenue Committee, will gain support in the coming weeks.

The Northeast Arkansas lawmaker is also pushing for the development of a new tourist attracting in Blytheville at the old Eaker Air Force Base. Local officials have launched a Cold War Museum effort, which captures the history of the base that closed in 1992.

Wallace said efforts to fund the museum are centered around private donations and potential federal funding for now. He may seek state funding at some point, but unlikely this session. Efforts are currently focused on making it a national or federal park.

You can watch Wallace’s full interview in the video below.