Republican representatives Justin Gonzales and Richard Womack gave their thoughts on several issues during a recent Town Hall meeting at the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation Center.
INTERNET SALES TAX
It was noted that Internet sales are taxed if companies have an Arkansas presence. If not, by law, buyers must pay Arkansas taxes at the end of each year. It was also noted that many consumers are not paying the taxes because they do not realize it is required. As a consequence, many Arkansas businesses are closing.
The representatives were asked how they voted initially for the Internet Sales tax and would they vote in support of the measure in 2019.
According to Gonzales, the taxes are owed.
“But that has been a Federal issue, in my opinion,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales noted the Commerce Clause in the Constitution has prevented the taxing of companies who do not have an Arkansas nexus.
“When that came up last session, South Dakota was in the middle of a lawsuit on the bill that was brought to Arkansas. Since that time, they ruled that bill unconstitutional in their South Dakota Supreme Court,” said Gonzales.
Womack cited the legal issue mentioned by Gonzales and his own personal feelings as reasons why he voted against the proposal.
“For me, I will take every opportunity and use any tool that I have access to, to keep money in the pockets of people who earned it. It was their sweat and their labor that created that revenue,” Womack said.
Womack said he would vote against the measure again in 2019 if it is the same as what was presented during the last session.
The representatives were asked what has to happen for advanced practice nurses to have their own practices without physicians.
Womack believes that the scope of practice has to chance before this can take place.
“I think there has got to be some laws, some rules and regulations around how they are able to bill Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. Those are kind of the big stickers to allow APNs more freedom in their operation,” Womack said.
Gonzales concurred and added that based on the current mandates for APRNs, there is not much patient protection.
By allowing APRNs to bill in the state’s Medicaid system, Gonzales noted it would save the state money because they are reimbursed at a lower rate than a physician.
It was noted that a vote for Arkansas Works is critical to the state and the county. Should the issue not pass, citizens would be forced to use emergency rooms, and hospitals cannot absorb the high cost of uncompensated care. The representatives were asked how they would vote in regards to Arkansas Works.
Gonzales noted individuals who would have to come off of Arkansas Works would be transferred to the Federal exchange.
“It’s not like they are losing health care,” said Gonzales, who added that the idea of uncompensated care and its impact on hospitals is “not quite accurate.”
“We don’t know what their actual costs are. They base that off of what they bill and didn’t get back,” said Gonzales said.
“Until we can get down to the true cost of healthcare then we can’t even sit down and have a real discussion about that,” Gonzales said.
Womack’s position on Arkansas Works (also known as the Private Option) has been consistent since it was first introduced in 2013.
“I have been opposed and I remain opposed for lots of reasons,” said Womack.
Womack does not believe the item is sustainable.
“In order to keep up this facade that it is somehow solvent, it requires a tremendous amount of deficit spending by the Federal government. The math just doesn’t work,” Womack said.
While he noted there have been some good things to come out of the Private Option, Womack believes there has got to be a middle ground somewhere and a more responsible way of funding the program.
“I will absolutely vote for any measures or ideas that will make this a more conservative approach. The last thing we want to do is have people to lose their insurance or their access to health care, but we have to do it in a responsible manner,” Womack said.