FOR ARKANSAS PROSPERITY
Policy Recommendations for the New Administration
(December 2006) Governor-Elect Mike Beebe inherits an Arkansas economy
characterized, in the last 10 years, by an abysmal income rank and sub-par
employment growth. Many public policies enacted in the last decade have
not altered one sobering fact: Arkansas has ranked second or third worst
in the nation in per capita personal income for nearly the entire postwar
era (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). In 2005, Arkansas ranked 48th,
ahead of hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi. Arkansas income
actually fell as a percentage of the U.S. in the last decade. Job creation
has also lagged since 1996. Arkansas employment grew at a 1.0 percent
annual rate versus a 1.3 percent rate for the nation (U.S. Bureau of Labor
Tax increase advocates continue to defend this economic record. They have
built a road to poverty, not prosperity. It's time they were called on
their record, and the Policy Foundation intends to.
The people of Arkansas, for decades, have been promised good-paying jobs
and an income level (100 percent) equal to the U.S. But too many public
officials have been long on rhetoric and short on details. The worst have
eaten the seed, and enacted policies that have done real damage to the
Arkansas economy. Arkansas, as a result, competes with Mississippi, not
states in the region that have improved in income rank.
The long-suffering people of Arkansas deserve better. They deserve policies
that create a vast, stable and prosperous middle class, not ideas that
create more poverty. They deserve the opportunity to achieve the American
dream through good-paying private sector jobs that provide upward mobility.
Their children deserve the opportunity to learn in safe and functional
educational environments. This generation and future generations deserve
good government that is accountable to citizens and transparent.
The Policy Foundation has a long-standing interest in expanding prosperity
in Arkansas. Since our 1995 founding we have made fiscal and education
reform recommendations including some later enacted by policymakers. We
have also filed two amicus curiae briefs with the state Supreme Court
in the Lake View school finance case, and have advanced our ideas by taking
them directly to the people of Arkansas in the court of public opinion.
Some public officials have engaged in a sincere dialogue to enact policies
that will expand prosperity in Arkansas. Thanks to their efforts, the
following recommendations were enacted:
- Reduction in
the capital gains tax rate;
budgeting, later discontinued;
Charter school expansion;
in more than 60 school districts;
A uniform, statewide
K-12 system of accounting.
These policy victories
occurred because policymakers kept an open mind when considering the hard
work of more than 100 volunteers involved with the Policy Foundation,
a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.
a market-based system-and reasoned public policies-can birth the sustained
prosperity capable of creating, and expanding, a vast, stable and prosperous
Arkansas middle class. This roadmap to prosperity provides directions
to encourage that process.