State Chamber chief hopes tax cut trend continues

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,974 views 

Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Zook says what he hopes will happen and what he expects to happen with the state’s $1.16 billion budget surplus will be similar.

“I think they’re pretty close to the same. I think we’ll see continued progress on reducing the tax burden for Arkansas taxpayers, individuals, as well as businesses. We’ve made a lot of progress to date, and we’ve still got more to go, and there’s a lot of money sitting there that could be used in that way,” Zook said.

Zook was a guest on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics. He said the state’s efforts to reduce the top personal and corporate income tax rates – currently at 4.7% and 5.1%, respectively – has stimulated Arkansas’ economy. He hopes to see another two-tenths to five-tenths of a percent cut in both rates.

“I think it gets reinvested, a great deal of it, and that’s exactly what’s been going on. That’s part of what’s generating these surpluses,” he said.

“The past tax reductions translate into more money available for employers to pay employees, to invest in their businesses for construction purposes and new plants and equipment. And it’s certainly making Arkansas more attractive for capital investment. We’re seeing that all over the state – record-sized projects everywhere,” Zook added.

Zook, who also leads the Associated Industries of Arkansas, has been instrumental in pushing for improvements in workforce education and opportunities.

“The solutions all pretty much look the same, regardless of which state you’re in. Number one, getting more people off the sidelines and into the workplace,” Zook said.

After recently returning from a workforce conference in Washington, D.C., he said Arkansas has an opportunity to move forward on this front. Arkansas’ labor force participation rate is lower than many other states, and getting more people into the workforce would boost that number.

“We’ve got a big gap in Arkansas between us and the national average. So that’s a big opportunity for us and most of the Southern and Midwestern states as well,” he added. “I think the most important long-term issue is the educational attainment level. People have to, number one, graduate from high school. They have to be prepared to take jobs that are existing, and they have to have some kind of training or further preparation after high school to be able to compete in a highly sophisticated workplace.”

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