Revenue & Tax chair floats tax credit proposal, ready to move on balanced budget
State Senator Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, said legislative leaders are ready to move forward with the state’s balanced budget process even though major policy objectives like prison and sentencing reform and tax cuts are undecided.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Capitol View, Hickey, the chair of the Senate Revenue & Tax Committee and the past president pro tempore of the State Senate, said serious deliberations will begin when lawmakers reconvene in Week 12 after a Spring Break recess.
“The thing is, of course, the governor’s office, they’re new down here, and we’ve been waiting to see if they were going to maybe try to present a new balanced budget. Well, myself and Senator [Jonathan] Dismang and Senator [Bart] Hester, we’ve been in discussions. After we come back from break, it’s going to be our intent that we’re going to pick up that and go ahead and develop that whole budget,” Hickey said.
“We’ll have to work with the House leadership to do that. They’ll be right there with us. I’m not saying it’s just us. But we’re going to look at that from this point, that we’re going to take that over as our legislative thing to get that pushed on through,” he added.
Gov. Sarah Sanders’ LEARNS Act will require $150 million in new education spending in year one and nearly $250 million in new spending in year two. Budget estimates for year three and beyond are unknown, but this year’s legislature will only be charged with budgeting for the next two fiscal years.
Also still undecided, the House and the Senate have different budget estimates from their adequacy studies, which set the spending parameters for education funding on their end.
Sanders has yet to produce a prison and sentencing reform package as lawmakers have deferred to her on her big campaign promise to lock up violent criminals for longer sentences and to add more prison beds.
Hickey said when that package of bills is revealed, he expects there to be three parts, although he has no idea what the possible price tag could be.
“There’s really three aspects of that. There’s building the prison. So there’s been talk about, well, how do we do it? Personally, I’ve always been an advocate right now that we do have quite a bit of cash sitting around, that we actually just go ahead and pay for the infrastructure,” he said.
“Then of course, we’ve got to figure out what the annual operating costs are to make sure that we’re able to factor that into not just this current year, but succeeding years that’ll be coming along. And then the larger part of it, which I think has been also holding it up, is the truth in sentencing,” Hickey said.
A former banker known for being a budget hawk, Hickey said he’s not sure if the legislature will consider a small income tax cut or a different approach. He’s floating the idea of a retroactive tax credit, paid out of surplus funds, that could be reviewed in the fiscal session.
“That way we would know exactly what it was going to cost, use our cash for that. Whenever we get in the fiscal session, that would give us the opportunity to see maybe a little closer of what we think that the LEARNS Act is going to cost, what the prison was going to cost, but also let us watch this economy just a little bit closer to make sure that we’re not going to get a pullback,” he said.
You can watch Hickey’s full interview in the video below.