Associated Press Writer
LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Wednesday he’ll give up his state vehicle after a newspaper report questioned whether state officials should report use of state cars as personal income.
McDaniel released a statement saying he’ll give up his state-issued hybrid SUV and instead rely on rides from others in the attorney general’s office. If he does use his personal vehicle for state business, he said he won’t file for mileage reimbursement.
He said his state vehicle, a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe, will be reassigned to the attorney general’s special investigations division.
“I believe I have fully complied with the law regarding my tax liability for personal use of a state vehicle,” McDaniel said. “I also believe that it is appropriate for constitutional officers to continue using their state cars in accordance with the advice of their accountants ... However, to the extent that there is any gray area in this matter, I have decided to no longer drive a state vehicle.”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday that Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is the only constitutional officer who pays income tax for the personal use of his state vehicle. Other officials told the newspaper they thought use of the vehicles was tax-free, though the Internal Revenue Service and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said there are no provisions allowing elected officials’ personal use of state vehicles to be exempt from tax.
Gov. Mike Beebe does not have a state vehicle assigned to him and said he rides with Arkansas State Police for state business.
McDaniel said he’s giving up his car even though he doesn’t think that personal use of the vehicle should be considered income. He noted that the salaries of constitutional officers — the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor, attorney general, land commissioner and secretary of state — are set by the Legislature.
“Any additional income for serving in such an office, including in the form of personal use of a vehicle, would mean that the elected official has collected more from the state than the constitution allows,” McDaniel said.