On April 5, following a recent report on the Arkansas State government’s budget surplus, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he would be calling a special session of the state legislature to address the 1.6 billion in extra revenue.
“June revenue collection was more than $150 million above forecast, leaving a net surplus for the year in excess of $1.6 billion for the fiscal year,” said Hutchinson. “This represents the largest surplus in Arkansas history and demonstrates the state is collecting too much in tax revenue.” He plans to ask the General Assembly to consider further tax relief, but this has not been without controversy. Some, state democrats especially, have called for the surplus to be invested rather than cut.
Andrew Collins, state representative for District 35, which includes parts of Pulaski county responded on Twitter, saying: “More tax cuts for top earners aren’t going to make Arkansas an education leader. And they aren’t going to make our tax structure fairer for middle and low income families. We have a rare chance to soar and help kids and we’re coming up with the same old tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Governor Hutchinson has also previously supported investments in education, including a recent proposal to raise the minimum salary for teachers to $46,000 a year and implement a $4,000 salary increase. The current surplus of $1.6 billion dollars would not only be much more than enough to cover that raise, it could actually give all ~34,000 teachers in Arkansas a raise of almost $47,000 a year, more than doubling the current average salary of teachers. Governor Hutchinson, however, has said that there is not enough support in the legislature for giving teachers a raise, so it will not be included in the discussion. Instead, there is broad agreement on incrementally reducing the state’s top income tax rate from 5.5% to 4.9% over the next three years.