Grocery Tax Elimination Tops List of Bills Filed for '06

NOVEMBER 16, 2006 - Posted at 7:40 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Arkansas legislators won't have to wait for a proposal to phase out the state's sales tax on groceries, which was one of the campaign pledges of Governor-elect Mike Beebe. Instead, the lawmakers will find a bill to do that waiting for them when they arrive to start work in January.

The first bills for next year's legislative session were filed yesterday, and at the head of the line was a proposal to phase out most of Arkansas' six-cent tax on groceries. Beebe said he doesn't know yet if he'll support Representative Horace Hardwick's bill.

Hardwick, a Republican from Bentonville, filed House Bill 1002, which would reduce the tax by one and a half cents beginning July 1 of next year. After that, it would drop by one cent each July 1 through 2010.

The one-and-a-half cents remaining includes a seven-eighths cent sales tax passed for schools after recent court rulings, a one-eighth cent conservation tax passed by voters, and a half-cent tax approved to make up for revenue lost by a homestead exemption to property tax.

Hardwick said he had been working the legislation long before the tax became a focus of debate in the governor's race. He said he had the bill drafted even before Beebe decided to run for governor, and had been waiting for the right time to do it.

Other bills filed yesterday include a proposal to enhance penalties for manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of an elderly or disabled person -- and a bill that would name the Diana Frittilary the state's official butterfly.