LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Another Arkansas lawmaker is taking a gamble on a long-term funding solution for the state’s roads.
St. Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, filed legislation Wednesday that would eliminate the income tax deduction on gambling losses and give the savings to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT).
“Rep. Andy Davis is kind of famous for saying, ‘Let’s take the cushions off the couch, tip it over and look for the coins in there,'” Mayberry said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, gambling losses are tax deductible, while the winnings are taxable. The amount of losses deducted cannot exceed the winnings.
The total amount of gambling deductions for tax year 2017 was nearly $245 million, according to the department. Repealing the deduction would give the state about an extra $10 million in revenue, which Mayberry believes should go to highways.
Mayberry, along with other lawmakers she consulted, did not realize Arkansans could deduct gambling losses. She credits the campaign for the casino amendment voters passed in November with the idea for her bill.
“So thank you, casino amendment,” Mayberry said. “The backers of the casino amendment, all I’m trying to do is make you good on your word. This is what you told voters. This is one of the reasons why voters wanted to pass this is because they thought that highways were going to be improved so let’s do it.”
Mayberry notes the amount of money ARDOT would collect from this legislation would only increase as the state expands casino gaming. It would also apply to other gambling, like the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, horse races and raffles.
“No one can come to an agreement on highway funding,” she said. “I kind of believe part of it is because we’re starting off really big, and this idea starts off small. Let’s start with $10 million, see how that goes and do increments. I am a firm believer we do need to look at some general revenue sources, and I think this is an easy one.”
St. Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, is sponsoring the legislation on the Senate side.