Floodgates have opened in Little Rock on tax cut proposals and voter reform measures. A Senate tax panel approved two tax breaks and one tax increase on Wednesday (March 6).
SB 463 by Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, would exempt armed services personnel from Arkansas income taxes. The bill would adversely impact state revenues by an estimated $7.2 million and would apply beginning in the current year.
With little discussion, Senators approved the measure, which now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
HB 1399 by Rep. Joe Farrar, R-Austin, would add a deduction for state income tax purposes for volunteer firefighters on reimbursements for the purchase of firefighting equipment or equipment lost in the course of fulfilling their firefighting duties.
It’s estimated fiscal impact to the state would be around $48,000 annually. It also cleared the tax panel without dissent and heads to the full Senate.
SB 5 by Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, raises an existing timberland tax from 15 cents to 20 cents per acre. It would raise an estimated $700,000 annually for the Forestry Commission. State Forester Joe Fox said the money would allow his agency to purchase up to 3 new bulldozers to fight forest fires.
‘JOB STIMULATING BILLS’
The Republican-controlled Senate Revenue & Tax committee also approved the measure without dissent or opposition from any special interest groups.
After the meeting, Senate Revenue and Tax Committee chairman Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, said he thought it was time to start allowing some tax cutting bills to be heard and make progress.
“In my mind, there’s not a number out there that we need to hit,” Files said.
He predicted a bill to give a tax break on sales taxes for manufacturers’ utilities would have wide support, as well as a sales tax break on replacement parts for manufacturing equipment.
“Those would be job creating and job stimulating bills,” Files said.
He said action on those items could happen within the next two weeks.
Following through on an earlier declaration, Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, filed four new voter reform measures this week. King, who has been leading the legislative charge on a controversial voter ID bill, said in a February Talk Business Arkansas interview that he had more election-related legislation to introduce.
In the House State Agencies committee on Wednesday (March 6), King’s voter ID bill, SB 2, was approved and now heads to the full House for consideration. The bill had been in limbo in the committee pending an economic impact analysis. The fiscal impact was estimated at $300,000.
The four new bills that King has filed include:
• SB 719 – The bill creates a voter integrity unit within the Secretary of State’s office. It would also allow for investigations of alleged election misconduct. Currently, the bill does not have details flushed out.
• SB 720 – This bill would create a procedure for removing a member of a county board of election commissioners. It calls for a public complaint process to give due process to an effort to remove an election commissioner.
• SB 721 – The measure would revise the make-up of the State Board of Election Commissioners, which is currently an independent group with bipartisan representatives. SB 721 would expand the board from 7 to 9 and would add a Lt. Governor appointee by taking one from the Governor’s purview. It would also specify that the Republican and Democratic political parties would appoint a county clerk and a county election commissioner.
• SB 722 – The bill would transfer the State Board of Election Commissioners to the Secretary of State’s office.
King has said previously that he’s also working on measures to address absentee ballot fraud and a new system for the prosecution of election fraud by independent judges and prosecutors.