Why the delay?
The money is waiting
For the second time now, the Revenue and Taxation Committee of the Arkansas House has put off picking up the revenue from a state sales tax—money that would go far to ease the burden on the already overburdened citizens and taxpayers of this state. How far? Estimates vary. Maybe $32 million a year in increased revenue, maybe $100 million a year. Neither is a sum to be sneezed at in this era or any other. And all the Legislature has to do is decide to collect it.
Till now, a company has had to have some physical connection to the state of Arkansas if it is to be taxed by this state, but it took only four days after the state Senate passed a bill to start collecting the tax on online sales for a responsible and accountable company like Amazon to announce that it would begin collecting the sales tax on its business in Arkansas starting next month—and remitting the proceeds to the state’s coffers. Other companies are just waiting to be taxed and send in their checks. There’s no reason for further delay except the usual legislative bickering. It’s time for the governor, The Hon. Asa Hutchinson, to step in and break the impasse. He a leader, and it’s time he exercised leadership on this one.
It’s not as if We the People were trying to squeeze the little guy: An out-of-state company would have to report a gross revenue of more than $100,000 a year from its products and/or services in Arkansas or have made at least 200 sales in this state to pay the tax. Lord knows there are more than enough crying needs to be met here in Arkansas, as the leader of the Democrats in the House—Michael John Gray of Augusta—was quick to point out. He would specify that $25 million of the proceeds from these now uncollected taxes would be spent on a variety of causes. Like rural fire and police protection, pre-kindergarten education, after-school activities, and the state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid alone has a waiting list of disabled people who need help. A skeptical citizen can be pardoned for doubting the efficacy of some of these programs, but not their good intentions. Republicans, for their part, have very good reasons to not want earmarks, yet more earmarks, for this money.
Rep. Gray said he was proposing his legislation to have “some conversation about where the state revenue is going. Are we going to continue to not to address these very important needs and just spend revenue in other places?” Or what about paying for tax cuts or saving the money for a rainy day? There is more than one way to look at this. Conversation can be an art; it can also be a preliminary stage of the way to an agreement that benefits all. But it can also be a lot of wasted breath unless it leads to action.
The action in this case would be simple and effective enough: Collect the taxes on out-of-state sales. Without kicking the can farther down the road and leaving it to another session of the Legislature, or even another generation, to do the heavy lifting for all of us. There are plenty of excuses being offered for avoiding this controversy, but there’s hardly a good reason in the bunch. By all means, collect the tax and collect it forthwith. For time is still money, as any good banker knows.
THE LEGAL foundation for collecting this state’s sales taxes on out-ofstate companies has always been solid. As long as one of these out-of-state behemoths had a foothold in Arkansas, it could be required to collect Arkansas taxes. Fair enough, legal enough. By now the good, taxpaying voters and citizens of this state have been kept waiting long enough for a little help from those outfits that have made a fortune off their customers here in the Wonder State, customers who can still use the money. So thank you, hurry back and don’t be a stranger, out-ofstate company. See you next time, partner. Because a partner is what you’ve made yourself when you share in the profits. If that’s the case, and it is, how about putting something in the kitty?
So long as business is good and getting better, partners in any enterprise aren’t likely to have a falling-out. At the moment, all is coming up daffodils for all concerned here in Arkansas. Why spoil a good deal? And miss a fine opportunity in this Land of Opportunity, as this state’s license plates used to proclaim and still could?
This is still a state on the grow. Why neglect any opportunity to keep it growing? Especially an opportunity that has fallen into our laps. And needs to be seized upon. This state wasn’t built by folks who didn’t know an opportunity when they saw one. And this one is unmistakable. For there’s no need to pass a new tax to take advantage of this opportunity, just collect the one that’s already on the books. Some of us can already hear those cash registers ring, and it’s music to our ears.