Business News Roundup — Tax battle brews at Capitol


State lawmakers are eyeing several areas for reforming the state’s tax code. By some estimates, there are more than $2 billion in potential tax cuts already filed in the 45 bills aiming to reduce Arkansas taxes. Talk Business sources indicate that four areas are being seriously studied for major changes. They include income tax bracket reform, a capital gains tax cut, the grocery tax reduction and targeted business tax relief.

Among income tax reform, the top Arkansas personal income bracket of 7 percent would be reduced in quarters or thirds as well to a lower rate for those making above $34,000. The impact could be hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Four bills related to agricultural and manufacturing tax relief are being considered among the package of business-friendly tax reforms.

February revenues boosted by sales taxes, slow income tax refunds

February’s state revenue numbers showed consumers spending more money than the previous month and a lack of income tax refunds also helped cushion the state coffers.

The Arkansas General Revenue Report for February totaled net revenues of $210.1 million, up 10.5 percent above last year and 8.1 percent above forecast. Year-to-date net available general revenues total $3.16 billion, $166.1 million or 5.6 percent above year ago levels. Net available revenue is above forecast by $99.2 million or 3.2 percent.

Wal-Mart Foundation director to head White House budget office

President Barack Obama nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget. The Office of Management and Budget is the largest office within the Executive Office of the President and is a member of the cabinet.

Burwell, 47, came to the Wal-Mart Foundation in January 2012 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She was deputy director of the White House budget office during the Clinton administration and has served a stint at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Walmart launches online site as part of Women’s initiative

As part of a five year $20 billion commitment to the cause, Walmart unveiled an online destination through Walmart.com that gives shoppers who want to buy unique and interesting products the opportunity to do so while supporting small women-owned businesses around the world.

More than 200 items, from jewelry and iPad cases to coffee beans and apparel, will be sold on the “Empowering Women Together” section of Walmart.com, the world’s largest retailer said Thursday, on the eve of International Women’s Day. The products come from nine countries including Cambodia, Haiti and the United States and include a $9.88 Women’s Bean Project soup mix and cornbread mix gift set and a $20 dress from the Rwandan women’s company Gahaya Links.

Walton College collaborates with Brazilian Business School

The University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Fucape Business School in Brazil to work toward the exchange of students and faculty and to develop collaborative programs to benefit both institutions. The document states the schools will “establish a formal agreement of cooperation and friendship which is intended to further the academic objectives of each institution and to promote better understanding between the faculty and students of each institution.”

Rodney Ferguson named Winrock International CEO

Winrock International’s Board of Directors announced that Rodney Ferguson will become the organization’s new President and CEO on April 1, succeeding Frank Tugwell, who is retiring after leading Winrock for more than 14 years. Ferguson, currently a principal with Lipman Hearne Inc. in Washington, D.C., will be responsible for the strategic, programmatic, financial and management operations of Winrock International.

Agenda outlined by new Aerospace chief

New Arkansas Aerospace Alliance director Chad Causey outlined an agenda that includes getting the newly independent group moving forward with more members and increased industry awareness. The alliance held the 2013 Arkansas Aerospace Summit at the Fort Smith Convention Center on Wednesday with about 250 attending.

Causey said the industry must work better with public schools and higher education to provide better job training for the industry. He also said tax reforms that could be beneficial to the aerospace industry and advanced manufacturers should be considered.

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Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His email address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.