State Senate Senate District 29
Jim Petty (R)
Residency: Crawford County resident for 27 years
Occupation: Founder of Strategic Realty in Van Buren
Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Arkansas Tech University
Political experience: Van Buren City Council, 2014 to present.
VAN BUREN — State government newcomers Jim Petty and Warren Robertson are running in the Republican primary for the new Senate District 29 position.
District 29 is a new district due to the statewide redistricting and includes the majority of Crawford County and portions of southern Washington County, according to the Arkansas Board of Apportionment website.
The Republican primary winner will be the only name on the ballot for District 29 in the Nov. 8 general election.
Petty, 57, is the founder of Strategic Realty in Van Buren, and has been a member of the City Council since 2014.
Robertson, 57, spent a combined 20 years in law enforcement for the Alma and Fort Smith police departments, ending in 2007, and is an insurance agent for Shelter Insurance. This is his first time running for a political office.
Petty and Robertson both said they think what District 29 constituents want from their state government is less regulation and lower taxes.
“We’ve got to support our public education,” Robertson added. “We’ve got to support our parents being more involved in our children’s education. We need to stand behind our parents and their decisions for their children’s education.”
Petty added he thinks voters want their state government to be more for small businesses, and he’s shown that personally throughout his career as a certified public accountant.
“I was the president of the Arkansas Society of CPAs, and then also had a stint with the American Institute of CPAs as Arkansas’ representative to their national council,” Petty said. “So I was able to travel the state and talk to other, fellow CPAs who were able to share their concerns from their clients and the issues they face. Likewise, in my four year stint I served as the Arkansas representative — or one of the Arkansas representative — for the American Institute of CPAs.”
The Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson authorized a $6.02 billion state general revenue budget for fiscal 2023. Hutchinson said in February the Department of Finance and Administration conservatively estimated the state will have about a $500 million surplus at the end of fiscal 2022 on June 30.
Both Petty and Robertson said that money should go back to the people in some way.
“Most people will spend that money in some form or fashion, so that will 100% stimulate the economy,” Robertson said. “I think that a surplus of tax money should be given back to the taxpayers. I believe in rainy day funds. I believe that we need emergency funds. But I think that the major, major surpluses that we have needs to be given back to the taxpayers.”
“Whether it be the small businesses or the communities, the taxpayers, that’s not so easy to do with the existing laws that are on the books in terms of taxation,” Petty said. “Can’t rollback those taxes and undo them once they’ve been collected. But in terms of worthy projects, I think those should be returned to the taxpayers in some form or fashion.”
In terms of the American Rescue Plan Act money, Robertson said he’s not in favor of it because it increases the nation’s debt and will negative impact future generations.
Petty said he understood it’s difficult to get from the federal government on where that money can be spent. He said he thinks the state has done a good job spending the money so far, but he’d like to have local communities be fully informed of what projects are eligible.
“There are many, many, many deserving projects from small, rural water projects in Mountainburg,” Petty said. “There are still people in this day and age that have Wi-Fi, but they don’t have running water. They haul water in for their cooking and cleaning. So those are worthy projects.”
Early voting for the primary election begins May 9.
Arkansas state senators serve four-year terms and earn an annual salary of $39,400, plus $150 per day in session.