Leader Blues

Friday, October 24, 2008

TOP STORY > >Taxes are theme in Dist. 42

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Reducing taxes is central to the platform of both candidates seeking office in the state House of Representatives’ District 43 – Republican Steve Meckfessel and Democrat Jim Nickels, both of Sherwood.

The seat is being vacated by Rep. Jeff Wood, who is term-limited.
Meckfessel, 40, is a small-business owner, in partnership as a builder and owner of rental properties. He said that his experience since 1990 as a business person has been “discouraging” from a tax standpoint. “Overtaxed,” he decided to run for office to “create and leave a legacy” for his 5-year-old son, so that Arkansas is more hospitable to business. He wants to help craft a comprehensive package that would include a reduced state income tax, and elimination of taxes on food, manufacturing and utilities. He believes the lost revenue to the state would easily be replaced by economic growth stimulated by the cuts.

“It has proved itself over and over again—the money remaining in the market generates more tax revenue for the state through more jobs,” Meckfessel said.

Another priority for Meckfessel is recruitment of more business and industry to Arkansas.

“I would like to see Arkansas be more business friendly to outside industry as a base to create more jobs and revenue,” he said.

Nickels, 61, would also like to change the state tax structure, with the elimination of the grocery tax and some protections to older citizens, so that they are not paying property taxes on their homes that are disproportionately higher than market values. As a result of the burst real estate bubble, property values are already coming down in some areas of the state, Nickels said, and adjustments in taxes would help retirees on fixed incomes.

Nickels is interested in more affordable health insurance for the public sector. Currently, public entities – city and county governments, school districts and universities and other agencies – buy independently or via a pool from an affiliated organization such as the Municipal League. It is “just common sense,” Nickels said, that consolidated, a state-coordinated effort with a much larger pool of insured would bring about better rates.

Nickels teaches business law at the UALR’s College of Business and has a part-time law practice, specializing in employee discrimination. He said that he decided to run for office because he is “at the stage in life that I feel I can devote time and the experience and education I’ve gained over the years so that I can deal with a lot public policy issues that the state is facing.”