From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The governor has announced that he plans to call the legislature into special session on December 6, to consider cuts in state income taxes.
Legislative leaders hope to complete the special session in three days. To make that possible, they are gathering co-sponsors of the tax cut bills.
When enough co-sponsors have signed on, we’ll be ready to convene.
The draft legislation circulating at the Capitol includes a reduction in corporate income taxes, as well as reductions in individual income taxes at all levels.
The draft bill also has a provision that will do away with the so-called “cliff” between tax tables.
The tax cliff sometimes works against people who get a raise that is not very large, but just big enough to put them in a higher tax bracket.
The bill would phase in reductions in individual income taxes for the top brackets, eventually lowering them from 5.9 percent to 4.9 percent.
The top rate for corporate income taxes would drop from 5.9 percent to 5.3 percent, by tax year 2025.
In order for the reductions to fully go into effect, certain conditions would have to be met. Those conditions are meant to protect the fiscal integrity of the state, and prevent drastic cuts in essential services like education, health care and law enforcement.
By the time the tax cuts take full effect, in 2025, they will save Arkansas families and businesses more than $497 million a year.
The proposed tax cuts are very popular, and already enough senators have signed on as co-sponsors to guarantee their passage.
The question will be whether or not the state will use some of its surplus funds to shore up services for people with developmental disabilities.
There is a waiting list for families who need those services for loved ones, and as a state we should do all we can to get that list down to zero.
We can also boost the state economy by expanding pre-K programs. Too many working parents are prevented from getting better jobs because of the lack of affordable care for their young children.
Businesses are complaining about the lack of qualified employees. Expanding pre-K would allow more people to work, and therefore would allow more businesses to get back to normal.
Of course, over the long term expanded pre-K is a great benefit for young children, who will get a head start on their education.
Another issue that is likely to come up during the special session is whether or not we consider bills that are not on the governor’s agenda.
There are legislators who are running for higher office, and they seem intent on introducing bills that will garner a lot of headlines, but won’t actually do much.
A legislative session can be like a Thanksgiving dinner, in that the most noise comes from the kids’ table, but that’s not where the important family decisions are made.
By the time the governor officially calls us into special session, he will have commitments from legislators on both sides of the aisle, in both the House and the Senate.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.