Tax cut bills, Game & Fish appropriation clear House, Senate chambers

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 339 views 

Arkansas lawmakers overwhelmingly passed major tax relief and a lingering budget appropriation in the Senate and House chambers on Tuesday (June 18), the second day of a special session at the state capitol.

SB1, by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, would would reduce the top personal income tax rate from 4.4% to 3.9% and the top corporate tax rate from 4.8% to 4.3%. It also moves $290 million of the state’s $708.1 million estimated budget surplus to the Arkansas Reserve Fund Set-Aside fund. The measure passed with 28 votes, while 5 opposed it and two were excused from voting.

A House companion bill, HB1001 by Rep. Les Eaves, R-Searcy, cleared the House easily with 86 votes in favor to 10 opposed and four not voting or present.

“We have previously focused on lower income and middle-income earners,” said Sen. Dismang. “And this is driving down the top rate which makes us more competitive with our surrounding states.”

Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, spoke against the tax cuts, suggesting the money could be put into stronger social programs or meeting increased housing needs.

“Cutting taxes is easy. It’s great in an election year,” he said. “There are a couple of meaningful things we can do to make the lives of everyday Arkansans just a little bit easier than cutting taxes.”

Both chambers also passed bills that increased the homestead tax credit by $75 to $500 for property owners. SB 3 by Sen. Steve Crowell, R-Magnolia, passed the Senate 30-5, while HB1002 by Rep. Bart Schulz, R-Cave City, cleared the House 98-2.

Lastly, State Senators passed SB2, an appropriation bill to fund the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. It includes a raise for the executive director to $170,000. The bill passed the Senate with 31 votes, while four senators were excused from voting.

The bill will be considered in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Lawmakers are expected to complete their special session votes tomorrow and send the passed measures to Gov. Sarah Sanders for signature.