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story.lead_photo.caption FILE PHOTO Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - A view of the Arkansas State Capitol building, looking west.

ROGERS -- The House is hesitant to take up a Senate-passed tax cut bill supported by the governor until the situation on highway money is clearer, House members told the president of the state Senate in a forum Saturday morning.

Senate president pro tempore Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, told the four House members present Saturday they weren't the only ones concerned about the balance between tax cuts and highway needs. Concerns about highway money was part of the reason the proposed tax cut didn't pass the Senate on the first try, Hendren said. His discussions with dissenting senators addressed the issue, Hendren said.

The overall tax cut plan required a three-quarters majority because that's required under the state constitution to raise any taxes, and some offsetting increases are in the tax plan. A second try to pass a bill requiring such a super-majority isn't unusual, Hendren said. Saturday's forum was sponsored by the Rogers-Lowell and Greater Bentonville chambers of commerce. At least 40 people attended the hour-long forum at New Tech High School in Rogers.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to roll out his plan for more state money for highways Monday, he said Thursday. Saturday's forum wasn't the only place where lawmakers told constituents they wanted to know how highway needs would be met before approving the tax cut, according to news accounts. Hutchinson's tax-cut plan is projected by state officials to reduce revenue by about $97 million a year, after it's fully implemented. The plan would cut the top state income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over two years.

"Right now we want to know about the governor's plan for highways, and we do have other priorities before we slash too much more," said Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, at Saturday's forum. The state has essential services it must provide, Douglas said.

Hendren said he understands lawmakers' concerns, but at the same time House members are moving to reduce the state's property taxes. The state has the highest state income tax in the region and some of the highest sales taxes in the nation, he said, yet the House proposes to reduce one of the lowest property tax rates of any state.

One tax the lawmakers present would consider raising is one on vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes or similar devices, Hendren said.

Other topics raised at the forum included: government reorganization, brought up by Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville; whether the Property Tax Relief Fund, with money from a one-half percent sales tax was necessary, brought up by Rep. Gayla McKenzie, R-Gravette; and a bill by Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, to allow more time for recess in elementary school, brought up by Della Rosa.

NW News on 02/10/2019

Print Headline: Highway money give tax cutting a pause

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