February 5, 2004 - Posted at 2:45 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas House has passed the largest tax increase in state history and sent the $377 million plan to the Senate. A vote in the state Senate on the tax increase to pay for overhauling the state's schools could come as early as this afternoon.
The 7/8th cents sales tax increase passed this afternoon on a 54-to-44 vote after failing by the same margin yesterday. The bill is expected to come up in the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee later today. If rules are suspended on the Senate floor, a final vote could also come today in that chamber.
Representative Joyce Elliott of Little Rock asked her colleagues to reconsider the bill after yesterday's defeat and was among those who changed their vote. She said she hoped legislators would pass taxes in the future that are more progressive than the sales tax.
The sales tax is often criticized as regressive because of the burden on poorer families. Poor people must pay a larger percentage of their income to the government. The sales tax, however, is also the easiest to pass in the Arkansas Legislature. It needs only 51 votes in the House and 18 in the Senate. Other types of taxes require 75 percent majorities in the 100-member House and 35-member Senate.