Sanders calls special legislative session on tax cuts, FOIA changes
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is calling for a special session of the Arkansas Legislature to run from Monday to Wednesday of next week. Speaking at the State Capitol on Friday, Sanders said "cutting taxes, streamlining state government, and protecting our freedom” are all on lawmakers' agenda.
Sanders says the legislature plans to pass laws altering the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which compels state government entities to disclose information to the public upon request. This comes after attorney and blogger Matt Campbell used FOIA to sue Arkansas State Police for access to the governor’s flight records.
Sanders said current Arkansas FOIA laws violate her safety by giving the public access to her travel information. The governor did not name Campbell specifically, but said “some people are weaponizing FOIA.”
“If asking you to provide the records you are required to under the law is weaponizing the law, then the word weaponizing has lost all meaning,” Campbell said, in an interview with Little Rock Public Radio on Friday.
Sanders said, since her time as White House Press Secretary for former President Donald Trump, she's suffered many “credible death threats,” including one from an Oklahoma man who pled guilty to threatening to murder her this year.
As a mother of young children, Sanders said making her flight records available to the public is a step too far.
“If they know you travel with two people versus four people or six people, and you take this route versus this one, or you fly specifically on this airline versus this one, you're putting that person in vulnerability," she said.
Campbell disagrees. He says he became curious to see the flight records after Sanders opted to bring five state troopers along with her during a recent trip to Europe.
“I don’t have a time machine, nobody is going to go back and catch these flights in action,” he said. "I don't know how knowing who was on a plane in the past would put anyone in danger."
Campbell said the suggestion that the Sanders' children would be put in danger because of a FOIA request is “disgusting” and “the dumbest thing I've ever heard.”
“FOIA is about the only way you can force [the government] to tell you what they are doing,” he said.
Sanders said the new FOIA law will “mirror federal FOIA language,” while Campbell said he is worried the law will be “too broad.”
Gov. Sanders also named new income tax cuts as one of her top priorities for the special legislative session.
“With President Biden's big government policies making it even harder for people to make ends meet, every Arkansan needs a little extra money in their pocket," she said.
Cuts to the state’s personal income tax will decrease state revenue by about $250 million, and $58 million will be cut from corporate income taxes. Middle-class taxpayers who make less than $90,000 a year will also be eligible for a $150 tax credit.
A $710 million reserve fund will also be set up to begin phasing out the state's income tax completely. Arkansas ended the last fiscal year with a $1.2 billion dollar budget surplus.
“When I took this office, I promised to limit the growth of government before government could limit the growth of liberty,” Sanders explained, saying she wants to make the state competitive with Tennessee and Texas which do not have income tax.
Sanders also said lawmakers will consider legislation banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates for state government employees.