Arkansas needs a balanced approach to the economic crisis: cuts and new revenue

Statement from AACF Executive Director Rich Huddleston in reaction to Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year:

The economic crisis means many more Arkansas families are struggling while the state’s ability to help them shrinks. More Arkansans are losing their jobs, facing reduced work hours, and are struggling to get by. They need help now more than ever after suffering from layoffs, lost homes and empty pantries. Our state economy may be better off than that of many states, but it also takes us much longer to recover. That combined with our high poverty rate means more working families will need help for some time.

We need a balanced approach to the economic crisis-one that includes new revenues to meet today’s needs and starts planning for our future. We’re already cutting this year’s budget to respond to the crisis. But this problem is too big to solve with cuts alone. Every option should be on the table, including finding new revenue and using all existing reserve funds to pass the 2011 fiscal year budget.

When states try to address the problem with cuts alone, spending is decreased, workers are laid off and vendor contracts are canceled, putting a drag on the economy. A balanced approach can lessen the drag. In past recessions, states in every region of the country, in “blue” and “red” states, raised taxes; their economies did just as well as states that didn’t.

Arkansas can respond to the economic crisis in ways that protect families and prepare us for a prosperous future. A balanced approach will help maintain crucial funding for health insurance, child care, training programs and education so our families are better to meet their needs now and move forward when the recession is over. Then Arkansas will be in a better position to not only recover, but prosper when the crisis ends.

In the coming weeks, AACF will release ideas on finding new revenue to protect struggling families.