Hutchinson calls on farm group to help legislative session focus on tax cut proposals

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday asked those attending the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s annual convention for help in making next week’s special legislative session focus on lowering income taxes, not issues that will not be not in his call.

These issues include issues debated in public schools regarding the teaching of critical race theory and toilet use by transgender people.

“I ask for your help in making sure the message is: let’s lower our income tax rate, do our business and go home as the constitution requires and so watch this,” the Republican governor told several hundred of people. Little Rock to launch the 87th annual Arkansas Farm Bureau convention. “We ask for your support.”

The session would start on Tuesday.

Under Article 6, Section 19 of the Arkansas Constitution, a two-thirds vote of the 100-member Arkansas House of Representatives and the 35-member Arkansas Senate is required for lawmakers to remain in extraordinary session for up to 15 days to consider bills. not on the governor’s call for the special session. Lawmakers must first complete actions on items on the governor’s appeal, which they can do in a minimum of three days.

Several lawmakers said Tuesday that they plan to try to introduce legislation that would place further restrictions on abortion and critical race theory and other issues that should not be called upon by the law. extraordinary session.

Hutchinson said at the Farm Bureau convention that the state had reduced the highest personal income tax rate from 7% to 5.9% in his nearly seven years as than governor, and that’s a dramatic drop.

The bill that lawmakers will consider next week would reduce the maximum rate to 5.5% on January 1, and then to 5.3% on January 1, 2023, he said.

[RELATED: See complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature at arkansasonline.com/legislature]

If enacted, the legislation would mean more money in a farmer’s pocket that can be used to manage farming operations and provide for his family, and also more money in the pockets of his workers and workers. its communities, he said.

The bill would also reduce the top personal tax rate to 5.1% on January 1, 2024 and 4.9% on January 1, 2025, if the triggers are met.

Critics said the bill would greatly benefit high-income people at the expense of additional investment in needed public services.

Hutchinson countered that the bill is balanced, that all taxpayers get a cut, and would allow the state government to continue funding essential services.

Hutchinson said Wednesday he believes in the fundamental principle that the private sector should grow more than the public sector, so “we are doing it by lowering taxes.” His remarks drew applause at the convention, after asking if they supported the bill.

The income tax bill would also reduce the top corporate tax rate and consolidate the low and middle income tax tables.

The measure would also create a non-refundable tax credit for low-income people; make adjustments to smooth the fiscal cliff between tax tables; index the flat-rate levy on the consumer price index; create triggers for certain personal and corporate tax rate reductions; and rename the state long-term reserve fund to the catastrophic reserve fund.

Under a 2019 state law, the top corporate tax rate will drop from 6.2% to 5.9% on January 1.

The bill to be considered next week would reduce the corporate interest rate by 5.7% on January 1, 2023. This rate would fall to 5.5% on January 1, 2024, then to 5.3% on January 1 2025, if the tax reduction triggers are met.

The Ministry of Finance and State Administration predicted that the proposal would reduce the state’s general revenue by $ 135.25 million in fiscal year 2022, which began on July 1. Total general revenue reduction is expected to reach $ 307.4 million in fiscal 2023, $ 383.2 million in fiscal 2024, $ 459 million in fiscal 2025, and $ 497.9 million. dollars for fiscal year 2026.

CRITICAL BREED THEORY

Hutchinson said at the Farm Bureau convention that there are lawmakers who want to address other issues that are not his call for the special session.

But the Arkansas Constitution allows lawmakers to consider a wide range of bills in a regular session every two years, he said.

“They say we should be talking about critical race theory, which shouldn’t be taught in our schools, in our K-12 education systems,” Hutchinson said. “But that’s what our school boards are for. We don’t need state law to address this issue in a special session.”

There are also concerns about the use of toilets by transgender people in schools, Hutchinson said.

“Let our school boards act locally to solve these problems, we don’t need state laws,” he said.

When then asked if there was a bill dealing with transgender toilets, Hutchinson said that a lawmaker, whose name he refused to disclose, called him about the issue and “they understood very well that we had to keep this [session] concentrated.”

“I’m just using it as a general illustration,” he said.

Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Jimmy Hickey R-Texarkana and House Speaker Matthew Shepherd R-El Dorado said in interviews that they had not heard from any lawmakers wishing to introduce legislation addressing transgender toilets during the special session.

When asked if lawmakers should consider legislation addressing critical race theory, Hickey and Shepherd said they wanted lawmakers to focus on the elements of the governor’s appeal.

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, and Rep.Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, said separately on Tuesday that they plan to introduce legislation banning schools from teaching critical race theory, an academic and legal framework. which shows that systemic racism is part of American society.

Asked about Hutchinson’s remarks on critical racial theory legislation, Garner said Wednesday: “I think the governor needs to have a wake-up call on racist propaganda which is critical race theory.

“I think this is a critical time for Arkansas to resolve this issue.”

Garner said he believes lawmakers could review the bills at the governor’s request for a special session and then consider other measures in a few days.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said Tuesday he plans to try to introduce anti-abortion legislation at the special session that includes a Texan-style civil cause of action provision.

Hutchinson said he wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to provide more guidance on Texas law.

Information for this article was provided by Rachel Herzog of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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