Arkansas Chamber: Not Renewing Private Option Will Cost Businesses in Arkansas

The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas is sharing a report with members today that says businesses in Arkansas will face $27 million to $40 million in tax increases if the Legislature doesn't renew the "private option" during its next session, which begins next month.

The report, written by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, is available here (PDF).

"This additional expense will have a chilling effect on the growth plans of Arkansas businesses," Randy Zook, president and CEO of State Chamber/AIA, said in an e-mail. "With nearly 100,000 Arkansans still unemployed, those companies do not need to deal with added costs."

Zook's comments and the Jackson Hewitt report are being circulated a day after John Selig, the head of Arkansas' Department of Human Services, told a legislative committee that he doesn't have a backup budget if lawmakers block funding for the private option.

At that same hearing, Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, characterized the private option as being "on life support at best."

Prospects for the private option have been cast into doubt after Republican John Cooper won a northeast Arkansas Senate seat in a special election last week after vowing to block the measure, and Republican Sen. Missy Irvin, a key deciding vote for the private option last year, declared over the weekend that she no longer supports it.

Renewing the private option will take 27 votes in the 35-member Senate and 75 votes in the 100-member House.