Tax debate stalled

(January 22, 2004) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Deliberations on new taxes to pay for education reforms are stalled because of wrangling over school consolidation. Committees have largely refused to even discuss a range of proposed new taxes to raise the money because members want the consolidation issue resolved first. Legislators remain far apart on how to raise about 400 million dollars in new taxes to pay for a proposed new school funding formula. The state's highest court declared the existing funding scheme unconstitutional in November 2002. Some legislators say they won't vote to raise taxes and close schools in their legislative districts. Other legislators say they won't raise taxes without consolidating some of the state's 308 school districts to make statewide school reforms more affordable.