LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Gov. Mike Beebe on Friday said he wants to continue reducing Arkansas’ sales tax on groceries, but wouldn’t specify when he’d like to do it as he filed to run for a second term.
Beebe, a Democrat elected in 2006, made his re-election bid official at the state Capitol. He said he wanted to continue pursuing his signature campaign promise from four years ago: a call to phase out the state’s grocery tax.
Since he took office in 2007, the tax has been lowered from 6 percent to 2 percent. Beebe has said he wants to eliminate all of the tax, except for a 1/8 percent tax for conservation that was approved by voters.
Beebe, however, wouldn’t say when he hoped to cut the rest of the tax.
"I will remove it as fast as I possibly can, finish removing it as fast as I possibly can, in a fiscally responsible manner," Beebe told reporters. "I’m not going to over-promise."
Beebe has enjoyed high popularity in the state, with a University of Arkansas poll in November reporting 70 percent of those surveyed approved of his job performance. He’s raised more than $1 million for his re-election bid since launching it earlier this year.
Former state legislator Jim Keet, a Republican, filed earlier this week to run against Beebe. Keet has proposed phasing out the state’s capital gains tax and cutting individual income taxes, but hasn’t offered specifics on how he wants to do either.
Beebe isn’t expected to draw a primary challenger. Keet is the only Republican who has filed to run against him.
Keet, meanwhile, on Friday proposed cutting $1 million from the roughly $5 million budget for the governor’s office. Keet did not say how he would make the cuts.
"When elected, I will be serious about cutting waste rather than just talking about it," Keet said in a statement from his campaign.
Beebe offered few specifics on what he wanted to do if elected to a second term, saying he wanted to focus on education and economic development. Beebe took office as the state was in the middle of a long-running lawsuit over education, which ended in 2007 when the state Supreme Court ruled that Arkansas had adequately funded its public schools.
Beebe said he’s taking the race as seriously as his first bid.
"You run hard in every race you run, and if you don’t, you ought not to be running," Beebe said.
Friday marked the fifth day of the weeklong filing period for state and federal offices in Arkansas, which ends at noon Monday. The state’s primary election is May 18.
Other notable candidates who filed to run for office Friday include:
— U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, a Democrat who is seeking a sixth term representing the 4th District in south and west Arkansas. Ross is the state’s only incumbent congressman seeking re-election. Republicans Beth Anne Rankin and Glenn Gallas filed earlier this week to run for the seat.
— House Speaker Robbie Wills, a Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in central Arkansas. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder, a Democrat, announced in January that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Democrats John Adams, David Boling, state Sen. Joyce Elliott and Patrick Kennedy filed earlier this week to run for the seat. Republican Tim Griffin, a former interim U.S. attorney, has filed to run as a Republican.
— Ben Ponder, a Mountain Home businessman, filed to run for the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District seat in east Arkansas. The incumbent, Democrat Marion Berry, is retiring and not seeking re-election. Other Democrats who have filed to run for the seat are Chad Causey, state Rep. David Cook and former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge. Republicans Rick Crawford and Princella Smith have also filed in that race.