Arleg adjourns without teacher raises; surplus on the table for next governor.

Despite bipartisan support for getting public educators pay raises now, the legislature’s majority voted to end special session after accelerating tax cuts but not taking up teacher salaries. Cringe.

Groups in favor of teacher pay now organized a “vote to stay for teacher pay” campaign, asking members to vote “no” on adjournment so session could be extended and teacher pay considered.

Speaker Matthew Shepherd introduced his bill to sine die, or adjourn session, before taking up the proposed resolution to extend the session. Shepherd said that if there was enough support for teacher pay raises now, then members would vote no on adjournment. Unsurprisingly, the majority of members—all republicans—voted to adjourn. Here are the votes via our sister org, For AR People:

It’s clear what the majority of legislators prioritize: tax cuts for top earners in Arkansas. Working to speed up taxes for the wealthy and ignoring pressing needs like teacher pay, food insecurity, etc. is about as tone deaf as it gets. Only a portion of the surplus was tapped, designated for school safety with expenditures yet to be determined. Even calling the $1.6 billion a surplus is misleading, according to Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families:

Every state needs revenue to pay for critical services, like roads, public schools, libraries, fire stations, etc. If we cut income taxes too far, we run the risk of not having enough revenue to pay for things we all need and would likely have to increase other taxes… the Legislature has allowed many programs and services – like early childhood education, before- and after-school programs, public school staff and teacher salaries, and programs for Arkansans with disabilities – to go underfunded… the Legislature is putting vital services at risk.

In short, Arleg prioritized helping the rich get richer, quicker, over its responsibility to fund vital state services. It’s like they are uninterested in helping regular Arkansans get by. Double cringe.