Before the year is out, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is planning to call a special session of the Legislature to accomplish the goal of reducing the top individual tax rate in Arkansas. This will be the second cut to the top tax rate in the last three years.
Disability Rights Arkansas believes that instead of providing a windfall for those in Arkansas with the highest incomes, the governor and the Legislature should focus on ensuring that all Arkansans receive the support and services they need to live in their communities with as much independence as possible.
A reduction in tax revenue for the state means a reduction in available money for programs and services in the state budget. In a state where around 4,800 people with disabilities are receiving home and community-based services and another 3,000 families remain on a waiting list to receive those services, it simply does not make sense to enact tax policy that could potentially cost the state up to half a billion dollars per year. Many of those families have been on that waiting list for years. A reduction will make it even harder for them to receive the desperately needed services they have been waiting for.
In addition to comprehensive services in the home for those with severe disabilities, people with all types of disabilities rely on state-funded programs for aid in many aspects of their daily lives: education, transportation, housing, food, and employment services. For the individuals and families who rely on those programs, any cuts can have a major impact on their lives and reduce their ability to live independently.
The problems with this tax cut extend past how it would impact programs that people with disabilities rely on. People with disabilities in Arkansas are almost twice as likely to be living in poverty as nondisabled Arkansans, and as a result are much less likely to see any financial benefits.
Under the governor's proposed tax plan, Arkansans who make under $22,000 per year, which is 20 percent of the state, would see no benefit. The top 20 percent of earners in the state would receive 70 percent of the benefits of the tax cut, and any increase in sales taxes to make up for future budget shortfalls as a result of this plan would have a disproportionate negative effect on individuals and families with lower incomes.
The governor's proposed tax cuts would take money away from programs and services which are vital to Arkansans with disabilities, and they are much less likely to see any financial benefits. In short, the governor's proposed tax cuts are a bad deal for Arkansans with disabilities.
Instead of using our current budget surplus to give yet another tax break to those in our state who need it the least, we should instead be investing that money into community services which will allow people with disabilities to live with independence and dignity.
Christian Adcock is a voting rights and public policy specialist for Disability Rights Arkansas.