LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Curtis Coleman on Thursday criticized rival Asa Hutchinson's proposal to phase out Arkansas' income tax over time as "short-sighted," accusing the former congressman of not taking a broader look at the state's tax code.
Coleman told members of the Political Animals Club that a larger overhaul of the state's tax code is needed to make Arkansas more competitive with its neighbors. Coleman said that plan should include cutting the state's corporate income taxes and eliminating its tax on capital gains.
"To pull out a state income tax and say that makes Arkansas more competitive is at best short-sighted and fundamentally erroneous," Coleman said. "We've got to develop and we will develop a cumulative tax structure that will make Arkansas more competitive with its neighboring states."
Hutchinson last month proposing cutting the state income tax over time, comparing it to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's successful push to lower the state sales tax on groceries. Hutchinson, who lost the governor's race to Beebe in 2006, criticized the approach then and instead called for eliminating the tax entirely.
The grocery tax has been reduced from 6 percent to 1.5 percent since Beebe took office. Beebe is term limited and can't seek re-election next year.
Coleman, Hutchinson and state Rep. Debra Hobbs are seeking the GOP nomination. Former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross is the only Democrat running for governor.
Hutchinson said he didn't believe there was disagreement among the GOP candidates on the need to overhaul the state's tax system.
"As I travel the state, one of the biggest issues I hear about from Arkansans is the high, burdensome state income tax," Hutchinson said in a statement released by his campaign. "A lower state income tax would help create jobs, attract and retain business, and make Arkansas more competitive regionally and nationally."
Coleman said he's still working on a more detailed plan for cutting taxes, but told reporters he believed his approach would be more comprehensive than Hutchinson's.
"The objective here is to create an economy, an environment for a strong pro-business pro-job economy, and that's going to require an overhaul and reform of our cumulative tax code," Coleman told reporters after his speech.
The club, which meets regularly to hear from elected officials, is holding a series of breakfasts with the gubernatorial candidates. Hutchinson addressed the group last month, and Hobbs is scheduled to speak to the group on Aug. 20.
Ross plans to address the group next week.
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