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Arkansas lawmakers waste no time lining up funding for Game and Fish Commission

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(The Center Square) – The Arkansas Joint Budget Committee spent less than a minute approving appropriations for the Game and Fish Commission a month after lawmakers could not agree during the regular fiscal session.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the Legislature back this week to approve the commission’s funding and vote on an income tax break.

The JPC Special Language Subcommittee first approved language that sets the maximum salary for the Game and Fish Commission’s executive director at $170,000.

“If there is an increase above the amount that was paid on June 17, 2024 to the GAme and Fish Commissioner that exceeds 5%, then that would have required prior approval by the legislative council or joint budget or by whoever is meeting at the time,” said Jonathan Dismang, R-Bebee, who is sponsoring the bill.

The director’s current salary is $152,637, and a 5% increase would be $158,742. The 5% cap applies only to fiscal year 2025, which ends June 20, 2025.

The House of Representatives failed to pass the commission’s appropriation during the regular session in May over questions about a raise for the executive director. Sixty-two representatives approved the appropriation, but 75 votes were needed. Eleven members voted present.

Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crosset, chair of the Special Language Subcommittee, said he thinks “we’ve learned something from this.”

“I hope we never come back to this point and that’s for members and that’s for Game and Fish that we keep an open dialogue so that we don’t have to deal with this issue ever again,” Gilmore said.

The Legislature is expected to vote on the appropriation on Tuesday.

The committees also greenlighted Sanders’ tax cuts. If the full Legislature approves, the state income tax would drop from 4.4% to 3.9% and the corporate tax rate from 4.8% to 4.3%, effective Jan. 1, 2024.

The homestead exemption would increase from $425 to $500.

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