Republican Representatives Richard Womack and Justin Gonzales provided answers to a series of questions during a public town hall meeting Thursday at the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation Center.

Republican Representatives Richard Womack and Justin Gonzales provided answers to a series of questions during a public town hall meeting Thursday at the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation Center.
The event was sponsored by the Arkadelphia Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce.
During the first question of the evening, the representatives were asked what could be a long-term solution for funding road improvements.
Womack noted how other states are using the sales tax revenue from automobile-related items to fund their highways.
“There are lots of funding models out there. Arkansas is pretty unique in the way they do it,” said Womack.
In addition, Womack mentioned the state’s highway department has developed several proposals.
“If the voters choose to pass it, we will get behind and do our best to make it work,” Womack said.
Gonzales believes highways are an essential function of government. Like Womack, Gonzales believes funding should be designated towards the state’s highways.
“It seems like things like Medicaid are eating up our budget,” said Gonzales, who added that funding for Medicaid was increased by $126 million.
“If we had that money to put towards highways that would go a long way in making our highways better,” Gonzales said.
The representatives were asked what had been the most debated issue they had seen in the upcoming budget session and how it could be resolved.
“I don’t foresee a huge debate on anything in this session yet. I think this is going to be a pretty smooth session,” Womack said.
According to Gonzales, an issue regarding pharmacy benefit managers has surfaced. The issue surfaced when Blue Cross reportedly contracted with a pharmacy benefit manager to help cut the rates of Arkansas Works. As a consequence, the reduction in costs has affected several pharmacists across the state.
“That’s really not anything we should be dealing with in a fiscal session. If that comes up it could get contentious,” said Gonzales.
The representatives were asked what services would be eliminated if taxes were cut.
According to Gonzales, the legislature has had approximately $115 million of income tax cuts during his tenure with no impact on the state’s essential services.
“We’ve done it all through scaling back agencies that maybe had too much appropriation they weren’t using it all,” Gonzales said.
In addition, Gonzales said the state’s income from income taxes has stayed low, therefore creating more jobs in the state.
“It kind of offset the $150 million cut by bringing in more people and replacing that revenue,” Gonzales said.
According to Womack, there has been an income tax cut for low wage earners and middle income earners under Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration. Womack added Gov. Hutchinson has a proposal for an income tax cut for top wage earners.
Womack echoed Gonzales by saying there has been no impact on the state’s essential services.
Womack also noted that the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 5.6 percent to 3.7 percent since the tax cuts have taken place.
In addition, Womack said the average wage for Arkansans has increased by three percent and more than 300 agreements have been signed with companies from Arkansas and abroad.
“I think the idea is not exactly accurate if services are cut. I think the opposite has happened,” Womack said.
Womack and Gonzales were asked about the status of General Improvement Funds and what were some of the projects they had funded with GIF.
“I think it is safe to say GIF are no more,” said Womack.
According to Womack, he has used the funds to support projects such as the Arkadelphia Youth Sports Complex, the Arkadelphia Police Department, the Gurdon City Park, the Arkadelphia Lions Club and the Pregnancy Resource Center for Southwest Arkansas.
“A lot of good things happened in the communities because of these funds,” Womack said.
Gonzales noted the Glenwood Fire Department and the City of Murfreesboro were among some of the recipients of GIF for his district.