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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Different points of view

December 13, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

The General Assembly is back home again, having done its business in only a few days last week. So no per diem and mileage for lawmakers this week. We think.

But most Arkansawyers probably don't mind paying per diem and mileage for last week. For legislators went to Little Rock to lower taxes. According to the papers, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed bills "that authorized the largest tax cut in the state's history," and he seemed glad of it. The laws would, among other things, reduce the state's top individual and corporate income tax rates, consolidate the state's low- and middle-income tax tables, and create a "nonrefundable income tax credit for low-income taxpayers."

Michael Wickline's story in this paper notes: "The income tax cut will mean $474 more in the pockets of a couple each making $42,000 a year . . . ."

Not everybody was happy.

One group, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the state should be investing in things like caseworkers for the foster care system, child care and giving more workers more skills for jobs.

Now, it's difficult to argue with any outfit that calls itself "Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families"--for who doesn't advocate for children and families?--but we'll have to agree with the governor and the Ledge on this one. The choices are to give government the money and hope it spends the cash efficiently, or give the money back to taxpayers and hope they do.

Most Arkansans probably trust themselves with (their own) money. And probably can spend it more efficiently than any government agency.

While we applaud the governor and Legislature for taking an incremental approach to making Arkansas slightly more competitive with other states, they missed a great opportunity to take a major step to spur economic growth in Arkansas. If they had an enacted a provision to waive any state income tax for the first five years but only for new residents of Arkansas, we would have been far more competitive with Texas and Tennessee. Those new residents, while not paying income tax, would pay sales tax, property tax and multiple other taxes, and open savings accounts in Arkansas banks who could lend more money, make more charitable donations here, and maybe even open new businesses, all with the multiplier effect. Indeed we would have been the first state in America to make this offer, which would have given us incredible media exposure alerting those considering a move on a key advantage to come to Arkansas. Maybe the governor and Legislature will seize that opportunity next time.


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