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State Capitol in review - Feb. 12, 2014

The fiscal session began Monday. Legislators will be in Little Rock to consider bills concerning the budget for the coming year.

State sales taxes collections in January were only a litter higher than they were in January 2013. Total state sales tax collections in January were $178.6 million. State budget officials attributed the slow growth in sales taxes to a combination of bad weather and weak retail sales toward the end of the Christmas holidays. When the state counted all of its sources of revenue, such as individual and corporate income taxes, net general revenue was about 6.3 percent below last year.

The decline was anticipated. So even in spite of the sharp fluctuation in income tax revenue from January 2013 to January 2014, state budget officials accurately predicted the trend and prepared for it. Legislators will be studying trends in state revenue closely because we will use them in helping to determine the budget. We will have to take also into account the impact of about $85 million a year in tax cuts that we approved last year. We will be working on the 2015 budget. Arkansas’ 2015 year starts in July.

Lt. Gov. Darr resigned from office the first week of February, but it leaves four staff members in his office . Their salary totals about $250,000. There is a question as to what to do with the staff. President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, who now would be next in line as governor if something were to happen to Gov. Mike Beebe, has said he would supervise them. However some question the need for the staff now at all.

Charges of mail fraud have been added to former treasurer Martha Shoffner’s growing list of charges.

A New England development company has announced its plans for an outlet mall at Otter Creek in Little Rock adjoining the new Bass Pro Shop. It will be called The Outlet on Little Rock with familiar national retail names. They hope to have some opening in 2015.

Same as last week, the biggest story is the weather. It has been difficult for all of us and it is hard on the state’s economy.

If you would like to contact me, email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov or call my office at 479-650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387, Greenwood, AR 72936.

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