White County State Lawmakers Welcome Tax Cuts Made in 2021 Regular Session | New

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There were about 1,112 laws, including several involving tax cuts, which were passed this year in the regular session of the Arkansas Legislature, according to Sen. Jonathan Dissman, although many of them they haven’t received much publicity.

“We had 170 tax cut bills and about 70 of them became law in the last session,” Dissang said Wednesday during a virtual “In the Know” program hosted by the House of Commons on Wednesday. Searcy regional trade with Dissman (R-Beebe) and the State. Representatives Les Eaves (R-Searcy) and Jim Wooten (R-Beebe). “One of the most important was the PPP [Payback Protection Program], which was led by Representative Eaves, and who simply ensured that the proceeds, when canceled on PPP loans, were not taxed at the state level.

“It was a pretty good exchange with the executive who felt he should have been taxed. We were actually one of the states through Rep. Eaves which led the country to exempt these PPP loans from tax or to cancel these loans from tax. It totaled about $ 225 million, if I remember correctly. In terms of the current tax cut, it’s the biggest tax cut we’ve ever put in place, really in the history of the state. “

Dismang said the legislature also exempted state unemployment benefits due to the COVID-19 tax break. He said this was done because of a problem in that there was no state law in place that allowed withholding from unemployment benefits.

“The federal government really increased the amount of unemployment benefits and there was going to be a real tax that was going to be levied at the end of the day when people filed their tax returns,” Dissang said, “and therefore knowing that it was going to be that success that no one expected, we went ahead and retroactively exempted these from tax so that when people file their tax returns or prepare them, it doesn’t there is no such big surprise.

Dismang said he believed that for the most part, especially at the beginning, unemployment benefits went to people who really needed help.

“There have been a lot of layoffs in restaurants, in gyms as you well know and in other areas that have made it necessary to pay unemployment benefits,” he said. “I think it was about a $ 55 million tax cut in the state.”

Apart from that, Dissman said about $ 30 million in additional tax cuts have been put in place. One in particular that he mentioned that the Town of Searcy should consider using is the rehabilitation of historic properties.

“This is something that we haven’t done a good job of with regards to business owners in our area and something that I think we really need to take advantage of to help improve the downtown area,” said he said, “So hopefully we have some people who want to take advantage of it.

Wooten said the tax exemption work for the COVID-19 Air, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) law money, other funds that went into the state and unemployment, if you look at it correctly, the state probably had around $ 330 million in total tax cuts.

Dissman said one of the things he’s “most proud” of, from a fiscal standpoint, is any excess money that could be put aside in the long-term reserve. “It’s given us over a million dollars now that is in that long-term reserve fund. This puts us in a very good position to move forward with significant tax cuts for the state, to align ourselves more with our surrounding states, and to do so responsibly. “

He said the money would be the “backstop” the state needs “whenever the economy turns again”.

Dismang said lawmakers had “a long, regular session” that was slowed down by COVID-19 when it started.

“At the very beginning of our start-up COVID was escalating and it kinda went out or had one of the periods of hiatus while we were there,” he said, calling it “good and bad “because he said lawmakers wanted to do Of course there was” public participation, public input and trying to put that in place virtually so that the general public could watch, listen and pay attention and start participating ”.

Eaves called this a “brutal session”.

“It wasn’t a lot of fun,” Eaves said. “It took too long and a lot of political things happened that I think had no place in what we should be doing there.

“There was a lot of good that came out of it. I think there was a decrease of about $ 50 million in overall state spending, but we had increases, we frankly needed increases in Medicaid, the Department of Corrections, the police. state, and I think we had the biggest percentage increase in education [items] that we have for over 15 years.

Teacher salaries were also discussed by Eaves, who mentioned that the median salary will increase by $ 2,000 over the next two years to $ 51,822. He also spoke of a law that was passed requiring high school students to take a computer course before graduating starting with those entering ninth grade in the 2022-2023 school year. “I think it’s important,” he said.

Eaves also referred to the hate crimes legislation that has been passed, saying there are a lot of positives and a certain importance that go with it.

“We were able to pass what we would sort of consider to be a hate crimes bill, and that was Law 681 which states that if a person commits a serious crime involving violence, [he or she] is liable to serve at least 80% of his sentence if the state has proven beyond a reasonable date that the person committed the crime in aggravating circumstances, ”he said. “It really gives Arkansas a little bit of protection. Really for me it’s an economical thing. If a company decides to come to Arkansas and it feels like we don’t have any protection for these types of crimes …. I think that gives us that ability.

Wooten said she felt the Legislature’s approach to the hate crimes bill “was very unique.”

“I think that covered the bases that we needed to cover,” Wooten said. “I’m worried about the push that has been made, that it would have an economic impact, that companies would pull out and all that. I am just reluctant to adhere to this. But from a protection point of view, I think we’ve done a really good job of coming up with a unique approach. “

Wooten said the legislature is also dealing with positions in state government that have been vacant for two years or more.

“We found positions that have been kept and budgeted, some of which are eight, 10, 12 years old,” he said. “We have passed a law that all these positions must be reported to the staff committee and returned to them and if they do not justify them – these are the agencies – within a year, those positions will be lost.

“Just to give you a rough idea of ​​what this represents, we had 6,000 vacancies at the last report in July or August.” Of these, he said 1,000 positions for two years or more were vacant. “We’re talking about $ 45 million with an average of $ 45,000 and over; you’re talking about $ 6 million in employment benefits paid for those positions whether or not they are filled, so we have a committee looking at employee benefits and how to maybe budget differently.


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