AACF Testimony on June 2024 Special Session Tax Cuts

Hello, I am Keesa Smith-Brantley, Executive Director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Each year, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we release the KIDS COUNT Databook which is a 50-state ranking of childhood wellbeing looking at four domains-  education, economic wellbeing, health, and family and community. For years, which notably was through various administrations both Republican and Democratic, Arkansas has ranked towards the bottom in wellbeing for children. This year we rank 45th. That ranking and the components of it that led to us being ranked so poorly is why I am here today to ask you to vote against this tax cut package. I know that you care about the children of our state and want them to thrive.

And while parents are central to that and community organizations- either independent or those who are in partnership with the state- play an important role, this legislative body has the critical responsibility of helping to ensure the well-being of our state’s children. Many of you here today or your colleagues have noted the need make investments in preschool, job training, infrastructure improvement, health care particularly as we have the highest percentage of maternal deaths and the third highest number of infant deaths and programs to fight to hunger across the state.

What sets top ranked states apart from states ranked lower in childhood wellbeing is how long they have been making investments and how much they invest in their youngest generations. Each time the state cuts taxes, those investments are harder to make.  On one hand, we discuss how much money the State has but, on the other hand, we also hear that there is no or very limited long-term funding available for essential programs although, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, this cut alone will cost at least $450 million. 

I understand the desire to provide tax cuts and I equally understand the desire to remain competitive with the many other states that are looking to cut taxes right now.

However, this is the third round of tax cuts in the beginning of 2023 and during that time,  

  • the percent of children living in households with a high housing cost burden has increased 
  • the percent of teens not in school and not working 
  • the number of young children (ages 3 and 4) not in school 
  • the percent of eighth graders not proficient in math 
  • the amount of babies being born with low birth rates 
  • and the number of children dying- either accidentally or intentionally- have all gone up.  

We can do better. Before cutting income taxes again, we ask that you please invest in proven programs that help children thrive. Things like expanding access to early childhood education, funding programs that will keep more pregnant and postpartum women alive, and increased funding for the foster care and the juvenile justice system are just a few to name. Now is the time to make bold investments for Arkansas’s children. We hope that you will vote against this tax cut package and next regular session vote for investments in our state’s kids. 

Thank you.