by Max Brantley
Retired Sen. Bud Canada of Hot Springs, a former Garland County sheriff and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame member for his Razorback days, died this morning at 84. Arrangements are incomplete, but Gross Funeral Home will be in charge and a funeral is scheduled at 2 p.m. Wedneday at Hot Springs Baptist Church, a funeral home spokesman said.
Canada, long-time chairman of the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee, lived long enough to see his long dream of repealing the sales tax on groceries at least partially realized by the efforts of Gov. Mike Beebe. He served 28 years in the Senate before term limits ended his run in 2000. He'd also served in the House.
Roger Potts of the Legislative Digest provides a history of Canada's long effort to reduce the grocery tax:
Long-time state lawmaker Bud Canada of Hot Springs died this morning.
While still in his mid-30s, Canada served four years in the House of Representatives (1959-1962). A decade later he began a 28-year run as a state Senator (1973-2000).
During the latter years of his Senate service, Canada was a champion of exempting food purchases from the state sales tax. He introduced bills to that effect in 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997 and his final year, 1999.
A bit of legislative history here perhaps demonstrates the necessity of persistence, although the year-to-year progress Canada made at moving a food exemption surely also reflects the growth in the Arkansas economy and related tax revenue that made the exemption possible.
Canada's bills in 1989 (SB 178) and 1991 (SB 131) proposed a one percent increase in the sales tax rate as a trade off for exempting food from the tax. Both died in the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee. In the 1995 legislative session, Canada proposed a smaller rate increase of .5 percent (SB 11) and for the first time won Senate approval for his bill by a vote of 19-15. The measure died in a House committee.
Again in 1997, Canada won Senate approval of his food tax bill, this one contained no rate increase and featured an immediate reduction of the tax on food by one-half to a rate of 3 percent and 1 percent reductions over the following three years. The Senate vote of 24-11 demonstrated additional support in the Senate but again the bill did not make it to the House floor.
In his final legislative session in 1999, Bud tried one more time. His proposal (SB 6) gained even more Senate support this time, passing by a vote of 32-2. A Do Pass as Amended recommendation from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee moved a Canada food tax bill to the House floor for the first time.
The bill was narrowly defeated in the House, falling only five votes short at 46 yeas to 47 nays. However, Canada's long effort had paved the way.
In 2007, seven years after Canada retired from the Senate, the General Assembly cut the food tax in half, establishing a new rate of 2.875 percent on food purchases. The lead sponsor on the bill (SB 185) was Canada's long time colleague, Senator Bobby Glover. The bill was passed without a nay vote in both chambers.