LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel charged with making recommendations for tax reform and relief in advance of the 2019 session said Wednesday it will seek the services of a private consultant to assist with that effort.
Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, co-chairman of the Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force, said reviewing the state’s tax code, including all existing exemptions, will require more work than the state Bureau of Legislative Research can provide.
“When you’ve got a great big project and (an error of) 1 or 2 percent means tens of millions of dollars’ worth of difference, we’ve got to get it as close to right as we can,” he said after the task force’s meeting, its second since being created under Act 79 of 2017.
The panel voted to issue a request for proposals from consulting firms next week and scheduled Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 meetings to consider the proposals. Hendren said the panel likely will choose three finalists on Aug. 4 and hear presentations from the finalists on Aug. 11.
The task force will pick one of the finalists to recommend hiring, and it will be up to the Legislative Council to approve a contract, Hendren said.
Hendren compared the plan to the Health Reform Legislative Task Force’s hiring of consulting firm The Stephen Group in 2015 to assist with that panel’s charge of making recommendations on health care. But Hendren said The Stephen Group was paid about $2 million for two years of work and that “I am hopeful that this won’t be as expensive.”
Reviewing the tax code is not as complicated as navigating all of the various parts of Medicaid and Medicare, he said.
Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin sent a letter Wednesday to each member of the task force stating his recommendations for tax reform and relief, namely, simplifying the tax code, lowering the tax burden and “rethinking and modernizing state government” to reduce the need for tax revenue.
Hendren said when asked about the letter, “Let’s do the recommendations after we do the research.”
Rep. Lane Jean, R-Magnolia, the task force’s other co-chairman, said, “Everybody’s got an idea. I appreciate the input from everybody, but we don’t need to make decisions before we get the facts.”