Mon, Sep 11, 2023 4:02 PM
By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square
The Arkansas Senate Revenue and Tax Committee recommended passage of a bill that would cut Arkansas' income and corporate taxes over objections of some who said it would hurt the state's low-income residents.
Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, introduced the bill that would make the top income tax rate to 4.4% as of Jan. 1, down from 4.7%. The top corporate tax rate would be 4.8%, down from 5.3%.
Also included in the bill is a tax credit of up to $150 for individuals and up to $300 for married filers for 2023.
"This tax cut benefits all Arkansans that make above $24,000 a year," Dismang told the committee.
Bill Kopsky, executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, spoke against the bill, saying there is already an income disparity in the state.
"This bill makes that disparity worse by lavishing the vast majority of the benefits on upper income Arkansans while offering a mere pittance to middle and low-income families," Kopsky told the committee.
The committee passed the bill on to the full Senate for consideration.
Also approved is a bill that puts a $710.6 million surplus from the state's last fiscal year into a restricted reserve fund. The fund cannot be touched unless two-thirds of the Arkansas Legislative Council members agree.
"The purpose of this is to create like an insurance policy for Sen. Dismang's bill and others to make sure that in the event that we have a recession or other large declines in the economy that we will have money that would be available to pay for state services," said Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana. "We are not paying for the tax cuts out of this."
A bill that would ban vaccine mandates for state employees, including public school employees, passed the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
A previous bill that banned the vaccine requirements expired last month.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for the special session last week.
The agenda includes a change in the state's Freedom of Information Act that would prevent the release of "some certain security-related records, records that reveal the deliberative process of specific state entities, certain records prepared in anticipation of litigation or for use in pending litigation and records would be privileged in certain circumstances."
The bill has opposition from both parties, who say it is related to a public records request from a blogger to the Alaska State Police about the governor's security detail and travel expenses.
"There is no statutory basis for withholding any of that information, and ASP knows it," the Pulaski County Republican Party said in a Facebook post. "They’ve chosen to violate the law anyway. And now the legislature is being told to cover that up while also making sure that no one is ever able to know what the Governor is doing with our money. No co-equal branch of government should be so subservient to another that they are willing to collectively rewrite the law to cover for the Governor’s waste and the ASP’s illegal, unethical acts."