LITTLE ROCK — In his State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked legislators to consider cutting the sales tax on used cars almost in half.
Hutchinson said the state’s current sales tax rate on used cars that cost $4,000 to $10,000 is 6.5%.
“We could reduce that to 3.5% and give relief to thousands of Arkansans who depend upon used vehicles for getting to work and school,” he said. “Let’s do that together.”
But, he said, in order to pay for tax cuts, the state must grow the state’s economy by bringing people to the state. So, he proposed lowering the tax rates on new resident to 4.9% for five years to bring more people to the state to work, spend money and pay taxes.
The governor also said he wants to increase broadband internet to rural parts of the state.
“We have to reduce the digital divide,” he said. That, he added, would increase equitable educational opportunities for all parts of the state and attract more businesses.
Hutchinson said the first priority of the legislative session that began Monday was to act on the healthcare emergency facing the state.
He hailed the legislature as an effective partner in establishing a grant program for small businesses in the state, and adding more funding to unemployment, rent and food insecurity assistance. Now is not the time to withdraw from battling the coronavirus.
“We must not be faint of heart, but we must keep fighting and not call for retreat as some would advocate,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson has faced pushback from some Republicans, including by a group of lawmakers who sued to invalidate the state’s virus restrictions. Some lawmakers have proposed scaling back the restrictions or the governor’s emergency powers.
The current emergency rules are in place until Feb. 27, so the legislature must act before that date, he said, by confirming the emergency status.
“Now, let me move to a more difficult subject,” Hutchinson said.
While speaking in Harrison in January 2020, Hutchinson said he wanted to see the state adopt a hate crimes bill that would enhance punishment for anyone convicted of a crime committed against an individual based on nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation and even sexual identity.
The governor on Tuesday read letters from individuals encouraging the legislature to adopt hate crimes legislation. One letter even came from IBM engaging businesses in the state to get behind the move.
Hutchinson said the main objection he hears “from my conservative friends” is that such a bill would give some groups more protection than others. But he said the legislation would apply to anyone who is targeted for a crime be they Hispanic, Jewish, African American or Caucasian.
“My only request is that you listen and make your own judgement on the merits and fairness of the bill,” Hutchinson told legislators.