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Tax reform panel weighs 180-page interim report

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

Members of the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Task Force are making their way through a 180-page draft of an interim report on the state’s tax system, according to Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville, a task force member.

They will meet Jan. 8 to approve the report.

Teague said the document includes “a list of taxes and no recommendations.”

The commission was created by the Legislature in 2017 to look at ways to make Arkansas’s tax structure more competitive with surrounding states. Teague is Senate Budget Committee chairman and was appointed to the task force.

Members were charged with developing an interim report by December. They hired a consulting firm to assist with the process and to write the report.

In addition to his work on the task force, Teague is preparing for the Legislature’s fiscal session which begins in February.

“We’ll start budget hearings Jan. 8. They’ll probably last a week,” Teague said.

The “big six” will make up about 96 percent of the budget, according to Teague. They include the departments of health, human services, correction, community punishment, K-12 education, and higher education.

The Budget Committee is allotted two weeks for the hearings, but Teague is “optimistic we can do it in one.”

The Legislature meets in regular session in odd-numbered years and in fiscal session in even-numbered years. While the regular session begins in January, “The amendment creating the fiscal session allowed it to change to February,” Teague said.

Teague had dinner at the Governor’s Mansion and had a conference with Gov. Asa Hutchinson “to talk about the budget. I offered some alternatives.”