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Tax panel considers consultant, senator says

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville joined other members of the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force for the panel’s second meeting June 7 in Little Rock.

“We heard a report from the staff legal person and had a broad overview” of the job which the task force has been charged to do.

“It was hard to follow,” Teague said of the overview. “We asked for printed material.”

The panel agreed to ask for proposals for a consultant to help members with the process.

Teague told the group that the legislation which set up the task force “requires a report by Dec. 1. Our report could be that we don’t know” about recommendations at that time.

The final report is due in December 2018.

Representatives of the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C. met with the task force and presented a 140-page report to members. “It’s not of a cut spending mode. It’s more that our tax structure could be more efficient,” Teague said. “We’ll call them for information as we move on. I didn’t sense an agenda from them.”

The task force will meet again June 22. Maybe we will have some proposals by then” for a consultant.

The panel was created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and has been charged with making Arkansas competitive with other states on tax matters.

The 16-member group will recommend changes to the state tax code, an area with which the consultant could help, Teague said.

“My hope is to look at the income tax, sales tax and other taxes to see if there are ways to make the system more efficient. We’ll probably look at the remaining grocery sales tax,” Teague said after the first meeting in May. “We may talk about collecting a tax on internet sales. We may look at highway funding. There’s plenty to talk about.”

There are “lots of exemptions to the sales tax. Agricultural and industrial exemptions are a lot of money. I don’t see us messing with agriculture or hurting industry,” Teague said.

“I’m optimistic we’ll accomplish something. A consultant can show us what other states do and try to make us more attractive.”