FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 14, 2023
Sanders Fails to Gut Arkansans’ Right to Public Records After Widespread, Bipartisan Backlash Erupted at the State Capitol
LITTLE ROCK – Today, the first Special Session of the 94th General Assembly completed legislative work after a four-day, chaotic scene that saw a bipartisan group of citizens speak against and soundly defeat Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s priorities. The first-term Governor failed to gut Arkansas’s Freedom of Information Act, which is often lauded as one of the strongest in the nation.
Republicans in the state legislature passed laws to reduce citizen’s access to how a state official or governor spends tax dollars, to slash – permanently – tax rates for large corporations, and to provide just a mere $150, one-time tax credit to the vast majority of Arkansas workers.
“The entire state of Arkansas just witnessed the circus of leadership under Governor Sanders and Republicans,” said Grant Tennille, Chair of the Democratic Party of Arkansas and the former Chief Economic Officer of Arkansas. “Republicans were unable to pass the Governor’s top legislative priority to gut the public’s ability to see nearly all public records from her office despite supermajorities in both chambers.
“It’s just pitiful to watch Republicans file legislation in the middle of the night, delay public testimony for hours, and to strip citizens of the ability to see how officials spend our tax money. To anyone watching, and so many Arkansans were, it’s clear Governor Sanders and the Republican leadership are not serious or credible policy makers. They continue to govern in their own self interest,” concluded Tennille.
REVISED FOIA BILL STILL COULD CONCEAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS
“Anything which would endanger the safety and security of the governor, if released, should be exempt. But another category of records would have no impact on the safety and security of the governor. And so what’s the rationale for keeping those secret from the public?” questioned Representative Andrew Collins (D) of Little Rock.
“Unless there is a good reason given, they should remain disclosable under the Freedom of information Act. It should be out there and available for the public to see.”
DEMOCRATS OBJECT TO FAULTY TAX CUTS
“We’ve already cut income tax three times in the past 13 months with a budget cost of $1.6 billion, and that’s just the personal income tax,” said Representative Denise Garner, Democrat from Fayetteville, speaking on the House floor. “To cut taxes permanently for our highest earners with a budget surplus due to one time federal stimulus monies seems irresponsible at best. But to do that while only committing to a one-time, $150 check to Arkansans in most need is cruel.”
“Arkansas has the fifth highest poverty rate in the nation. One in five children live in poverty. 210,000 Arkansans have lost their health insurance. Tax cuts for the wealthy do not stimulate economic growth. Let’s cut taxes that we know help lift the economy and help eliminate poverty like the grocery, drug, or gasoline taxes,” added Rep. Garner.
“Do you think $150 is a sufficient amount for a family in need?” House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough (D) from Little Rock asked Republicans.
Republican Representative Howard Beaty of Crossett said he thought the $150 credit was “very significant” but conceded that the estimated credit for the ultra wealthy, which will be to the tune of several thousand dollars annually, was “yeah, a big number difference.” He added that he thought the $150 was “a whole lot more important” to the average Arkansan than the several thousands high income earners will receive.