Legislative Leaders Discuss Likelyhood Of Tax Cuts During Session

Jan 4, 2017

File photo of Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam is raising the possibility that lawmakers may not enact any tax cuts during this year's legislative session.

The Republican speaker on Wednesday said one concept he's heard floated is holding off on any tax cuts during the session, which begins next week, and wait until a special session later or the 2019 legislative session.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has proposed a $50 million income tax cut for low-income residents. Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren said he thinks there is strong support for Hutchinson's tax cut plan along with a proposal to exempt military veterans' retirement benefits from the income tax. Some Republicans have been pushing for deeper tax cuts than the one Hutchinson has proposed.

The two spoke at a forum held by the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors. 

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren
Credit arkleg.state.ar.us

Meanwhile Hendren said he expects lawmakers to begin modifying the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion even before the future of the federal health law that enabled the expanded insurance program is settled in Washington. He believes the Legislature will pursue additional restrictions to the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents, when lawmakers convene for the session next week.

Hendren predicted a special session would be needed to address longer-term changes if Congress follows through on Republicans' vow to repeal the health law.

Meanwhile the legislative leaders say they're not actively trying to discourage Arkansas lawmakers from filing bills on controversial social issues such as abortion or guns, but say they want their colleagues to consider the purpose of such proposals.

Gillam and Hendren said they don't know if they would support legislation similar to a law in North Carolina that requires people to use bathrooms consistent with the gender on their birth certificates. The North Carolina law has faced widespread criticism from opponents who have called it discriminatory and has prompted boycotts of the state.

Hendren said the last-minute negotiations in 2015 over an Arkansas religious objections measure that became law provides a guide on how to find compromise on divisive issues.