As Republicans hand money to the well-off, Democrats in Arkansas call for funding for schools, health care and improved quality of life instead

By handing out hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax cuts to the state’s wealthiest people, Arkansas is missing a great opportunity to provide universal pre-K, free two-year college, and services for which people with disabilities have been on the waiting list for years.

That was the message from Democrats in Arkansas on Wednesday morning as they set a day that is sure to hurt their hearts. The record tax cuts on the table this week are virtually a done deal in the Republican-dominated legislature.

The proposed tax cut is offensive to low-wage earners whose savings of $40-60 a year won’t even cover a meal at Chili’s, Rep. Reginald Murdock of Marianna during a press conference in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the Capitol on Wednesday morning.

“It’s laughable and it’s insulting,” he said.

It shouldn’t be like this, Rep. Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock) said. We could have gave our children a better education and improved the quality of life in the state instead.

“The House Democratic Caucus wants to share a vision today, a different vision for Arkansas that contrasts with the Republican proposal,” she said.

Instead of using the $600 million a year for tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, Democrats have proposed an alternative plan to spend the money on earned income tax credits for people low- and middle-income, health and social services for Arkansans with disabilities, free 2-year college, and 1,000 new pre-K classrooms.

“These are thexamples of how we can use the money to relieve, restore and reinvent Arkansas for the same price as a $600 million tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy,” Representative Megan Godfrey of Springdale said.

Grant Tennille, chairman of the state Democratic Party, comes to this fight with fiscal bona fide, having served as economic development chief under Gov. Mike Beebe. He doesn’t buy the argument that these tax cuts will strengthen Arkansas’ economy. Tennille likened the tax plan to walking past and throwing crates of cash into someone’s open car window. There is a vague hope that some of this money will be put to good use locally, but that seems unlikely. If economic development is the goal, there are many proven ways to achieve it, but this is not one of them, he said.

The Democrats’ message appeared to have little effect in the state Senate, which passed the tax reduction bill Wednesday morning without sweating. Same direction. Keith Ingram of West Memphis and Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff, both Democrats, voted in favour.

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