Fri, Jan 6, 2023 4:15 PM
By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square
Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a social media countdown to her Tuesday inauguration she wants to work on ending the state's income tax.
"When I take office, we will work on responsibly phasing out the state income tax to reward work - NOT government dependency - and let you keep more of your hard-earned money in the failing Biden economy," Sanders said in a Twitter post.
Nic Horton, founder and CEO of the new nonpartisan organization Opportunity Arkansas, thinks Sanders will keep that promise.
"I think Governor-elect Sanders is entirely serious about phasing out the state income tax and doing so responsibly,] Horton said in an email interview with The Center Square. "I expect we're going to see more steps towards that this session, probably going after the top individual tax rate again and continuing to chip away at it. It's important to remember where we're at: as of this interview, she's not even been sworn in yet. The legislative session starts next week, and then she's sworn in. She'll be in charge of state government for exactly 0 days when (the) session begins. And she's going up against an entrenched bureaucracy and a new legislature."
Phasing out the state income tax would be a multi-prong strategy that would include finding saving in state government, growing Arkansas' economy and increasing sales tax revenue, according to Horton.
"It's very doable, it will just take a little bit of time," Horton said.
Sanders has announced her cabinet members over the past few days. She is recommending the reappointment of Department of Labor Secretary Daryl Bassett and Agricultural Commission Wes Ward. Larry Walther was also renominated to his post as head of the Department of Finance and Administration.
Jacob Oliva, a member of Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration, was nominated as Education Secretary. Sanders nominated Joe Profiri, currently the deputy director for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, to lead the same department in Arkansas. Hugh McDaniel was nominated as secretary for the Department of Commerce and Mike Mills was tapped to lead the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
"The new cabinet is impressively strong and qualified," Horton said. "It's also a great blend of homegrown talent from here in Arkansas but also experts from other states who have successfully managed and reformed major systems like Medicaid and education. So you've got people at various levels who understand our culture and our unique way of life, but also have new, fresh ideas that we need to help us take the next step as a state."