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Expect more income tax cuts in next fiscal session, lawmakers from Benton County say

by Doug Thompson | May 12, 2023 at 5:30 a.m.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, walks to the well to introduce a resolution that would extend the General Assembly session through April 7, during the Senate session on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, at the state Capitol in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

ROGERS -- Expect more income tax cuts when the Legislature convenes in its fiscal session next year, the state Senate president told the Benton County Republican Committee on Thursday night.

Other Benton County delegation members agreed with Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs.

"I think we can go to 3.9 right now," said Austin McCollum, R-Bentonville, referring to the top percentage rate for individual state income tax. The top rate was cut from 4.9% to 4.7% during this year's legislative session, which ended April 7.

Hester and McCollum joined nine other state lawmakers from the county in meeting with the committee to take questions. The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. at the New Hope Assembly of God in Rogers and lasted until 8 p.m.

The Legislature meets in fiscal session, limited to only budget issues, in even-numbered years. Regular sessions in odd-numbered years deal with any issue state government can address. The next fiscal session starts Feb. 12.

Hester said he expects the state's budget surplus to reach $1 billion soon, making further cuts affordable.

On other topics, the lawmakers agreed the most significant legislation passed was Gov. Sarah Huckabee's LEARNS Act overhauling the state's education system. Rep. Brit McKenzie, R-Rogers, called the legislation one of the the most wide-ranging education bills passed by the largest margin by any Legislature in the United States.

Sen. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, said the LEARNS Act deserved the attention it received but other long-sought conservative measures passed relatively quietly, including tax cuts and work requirements for public housing.

One thing the Legislature did not do but will try again in the future, if needed, is addressing local regulations such as Benton County's restrictions on short-term rentals of homes, both McKenzie and Hester said. "We're a conservative state but some of our cities and counties are non-conservative," Hester said. He also expects an effort in the courts by property rights advocates, he said.

Rep. Delia Haak, R-Gentry, said making broadband internet more widely available in Benton County is an issue needing more emphasis.

The 11 members attending Thursday night's meeting account for all but three of the county's legislative delegation, and the three who couldn't make it either sent statements or were praised by the members present for their efforts during the session.

The delegation members present agreed the Northwest Arkansas delegation, including themselves and the Washington County members, worked together well. Hester praised Dotson, for instance, for making himself available in regular afternoon meetings with freshman senators from throughout the state to bring them up to speed on legislative issues and history. Although this was Dotson's first term as a senator, he served in the House for 10 years.

Print Headline: Lawmakers: Expect more income tax cuts


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