Lamoureux: Deals possible on Medicaid, taxes

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm •  Published: January 2, 2013
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"What we ended up doing was a mixture of what the Senate wanted to do, a mixture of what the House wanted to do and a mixture of what the governor wanted to do," he said. "I assume it will play out in some similar way. Each chamber's going to have its input."

Lamoureux wouldn't commit to whether he'd back Beebe's proposed cut in the grocery tax, but said he was uneasy about the way the reduction would take effect.

Beebe in November called for reducing the state's grocery tax from 1.5 percent to 0.125 percent. The cut would eliminate all state sales tax on groceries except for a one-eighth cent tax for conservation approved by voters as part of a constitutional amendment.

The tax cut, which officials estimate would cost the state $69 million, would be triggered if obligations in several key areas decline by at least $35 million for six consecutive months. They include payments the state must make to three Little Rock-area school districts as part of a desegregation settlement and some state bond payments. The state has asked a federal judge to end the desegregation payments, which total about $70 million a year.

Lamoureux said he'd prefer a tax cut that wasn't dependent on obligations such as the desegregation payments decreasing.

"I really don't like pegging that to other events that are outside of our control. ... If we're going to cut or reduce the grocery tax, we need to do it and decide how much we think we can do," Lamoureux said. "If we're not going to do it, we need to not do it. I don't think we need to do it or not do it based on a federal judge's ruling on an unrelated issue."

Although Republicans in the House have talked up the idea of income tax cuts, Lamoureux said he believes there's more interest in the Senate in tax reforms aimed at helping manufacturers. Those reforms could include a cut in taxes on utilities for manufacturers, he said.

Lamoureux said lawmakers first must decide how much, if any, money is available in the state's budget for tax cuts before they debate which ones to enact. Beebe has said he proposed the conditional grocery tax cut because there was no money in the state budget and because of the shortfall the state's Medicaid program faces.

"It goes back to Medicaid," Lamoureux said. "Depending on what our budget obligations are, you may have the best tax policy idea in the world. The question is, can the state afford it in the short term?"

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Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo