The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Michael Wickline reported this morning that Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson claimed homestead property tax exemptions in two counties for four years — 2008 through 2011 — though state law limits you to one $350 exemption.
Hutchinson said he “discovered” the law violation in 2012 and corrected it by making refunds. This was about the time he was making plans to run for governor this year. He thinks maybe he noticed the issue when refinancing a mortgage on his Little Rock condo. The cynical are free to speculate he was checking records for potential problems for opponents to exploit. A homestead exemption had caused a headache for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Keet in 2010.
The county assessor in Pulaski — a Democrat — forgave Hutchinson the $350-a-year fine for claiming the exemption on his $147,000 Little Rock condo while he was also claiming a credit for a $470,000 home in Benton County.
Hutchinson’s explanation of an honest mistake would have been more credible had he not been caught on another statement by reporter Wickline:
He initially said Friday that he “never claimed” a homestead credit in Pulaski County, and “it was assigned to me,” without his knowledge.
However, the assessor’s office has a homestead credit application, dated March 2, 2007, and signed by Hutchinson.
After he was faxed a copy of the application by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Hutchinson said it appears that the property record is correct and that he’s surprised that he had filled it out.
This follows his oops moment with the Arkansas Farm Bureau last week. Each a small thing. Each, nonetheless, embarrassing. Not the kind of detail work you’d expect from a high-dollar lawyer.
UPDATE: Mike Ross’ campaign issued a statement through spokesman Brad Howard.
“Today’s troubling revelation by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that Congressman Hutchinson cheated on his taxes and then evaded penalties for doing so is just more disturbing proof that Congressman Hutchinson is out of touch with working families in Arkansas.
“As a DC insider and registered Virginia voter, Congressman Hutchinson left a job at Homeland Security, and the very next day was hired to lobby Homeland Security by a powerful DC lobbying firm. He opposes a ballot initiative to raise Arkansas’s minimum wage. He refuses to protect the state’s bipartisan private option. He won’t cut income taxes for the 40 percent of working Arkansans who make less than $20,400 a year, saying their taxes are already ‘very low.’ And, he supports privatizing Social Security.
“Congressman Hutchinson is too disconnected to fight for working families in Arkansas who are expected to pay their taxes properly and pay fines when they don’t. It’s become clear that the only person Congressman Hutchinson is looking out for is himself.”