Arkansas task force continues work

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    By John R. Schirmer
    News-Leader staff

    Members of the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Task Force are awaiting a consultant’s report during their study of the state’s tax system, according to Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville, a task force member.

    The task force was created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in May to look at ways to improve the system.

    Members agreed to hire a consulting firm to review the current tax structure and make recommendations for changes.

    After the consultant’s report is received, the task force is charged with presenting a preliminary report of its own to Hutchinson in December.

    Teague has noted that this report could state that members “don’t have a report yet” as the process continues ahead of the deadline.

    The task force has met several times since May to hear ideas on tax reform and possible changes in the state’s exemptions. “Sooner or later, it’s going to get personal on taxes and exemptions,” Teague said.

    Earlier this month, the task force received additional funding to accommodate expenses such as individuals traveling to make presentations to the group.

    Along with the task force, Teague is involved in other legislative work leading up to the General Assembly’s fiscal session starting in January 2018. The Revenue and Taxation Committee and Transportation Committee are looking at highway funding.

    With revenue in short supply, “We may go to next year and not do anything on highway funding for as long as four years.”

    Agency directors are making their funding requests to the legislature for the next biennium.

    One area which Teague and others are watching closely is the federal government’s approach to health care and Medicaid funding.

    “Federal Medicaid talk is dangerous,” Teague said of possible cuts in the program. “Gov. Hutchinson is dealing with the federal government. We’ve asked for waivers” but haven’t received a response.

    About 300,000 Arkansans are covered through the Arkansas Works expanded Medicaid program.