The economy and the state budget are hurting because of COVID. Arkansas lawmakers have a chance to act right now to combat this historic crisis, but the response from Republican leadership so far is to carry on with business as usual. According to Republican leadership there won’t be much additional help coming from the state Capitol for Arkansas families, workers, and small business owners.
Governor Asa Hutchinson told the Arkansas Legislature during his State of the State address on Wednesday that, “we are here for regular business” even though we are experiencing “an extraordinary time” and that Arkansas’s “economic condition is uncertain.” He noted, “emergency actions have caused people to lose their jobs and livelihood” and that “this is highlighting for education and business the need for high-speed broadband.”
So what is the state’s response to support families and secure their future? Republican leadership promises business as usual, hoping the federal government will do their jobs for them, and to launch a series of deep cuts to critical services.
They’re even going after higher education. The governor noted that nice campuses do add value to an education and that in-person education works best but then pivoted to say, “we need to reexamine needs on our campuses when we see variety of ways for students to learn”
We can’t let COVID-19 be used an excuse to cut budgets for education and other critical areas — including Medicaid and healthcare.
Democratic House Minority Leader Fred Love put set a different set of priorities, to support Arkansas families. He’s calling for an immediate suspension to planned tax cuts for only the wealthiest high-earners; a fully-staffed unemployment hotline; support services for small businesses navigating new loan programs; relief for renters and homeowners facing evictions and utility terminations; and safeguarding against draconian budget cuts to education and healthcare during this crisis.
Arkansans deserve a basic level of security for the duration of this crisis.