By passing over SB89, the Arkansas Senate stood up for taxpayers
4 min read

By passing over SB89, the Arkansas Senate stood up for taxpayers

Safety Net
Jan 27
4 min read

On Thursday, the Arkansas Senate did something all Arkansas taxpayers should be grateful for: they “passed over” Senate Bill 89, declining to bring it up for a vote.

This can be done for a variety of reasons, but in this case, it seems clear the bill was skipped over because of a lack of support for it on the floor. While the bill could be resurrected at some point, for now, all indications are that it will never see the light of day again.

It is hard to overstate the significance of these developments. After being filed late Monday, it flew through committee without any opposition (or debate) on Wednesday morning. It was on a fast-track to the governor’s desk.

Thankfully, we had just enough time to study the bill and engage with Senators about what it would really do. To a person, they were receptive to our feedback and, once they understood our concerns, shared them.

Here's why this is such a significant win for Arkansas taxpayers:

  • SB89 would not just expand welfare–it would expand welfare to able-bodied adults who are already working 
  • It would expand a bridge program–that’s intended to smooth re-entry in the workforce for former welfare dependents–and instead make it an open-ended program. It would turn this off-ramp program into an on-ramp for able-bodied adults
  • It would expand a program that has no asset limit, allowing individuals with untold amounts of wealth to get cash from taxpayers
  • And if that’s not bad enough, SB89 would expand access to taxpayer-funded cash bonuses to Arkansas workers, including some who no longer qualify for the program

We did a full write-up on SB89 and why it’s bad for Arkansas here.

All in all, it would have clearly taken Arkansas in the wrong direction. With record numbers of Arkansans dependent on government–and taxpayers anxiously awaiting more tax relief–the very last thing we need to do is expand welfare.

And I don’t think I’m alone when I say we should be working to refocus our safety net on the truly needy, not expanding it to able-bodied adults who are already employed with potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash in the bank. In fact, I'm fairly confident the majority of the Senate agrees with me.

I’m hopeful that Thursday's developments mean this piece of legislation will be fully abandoned by its sponsor, Senator Jane English.

And while I want to believe Senator English had good intentions, I find it a lot more difficult to extend this same "benefit of the doubt" to the Department of Workforce Services who were at the table pushing for this welfare expansion in committee. (DWS also pushed really hard for this policy change in the 2021 session.)

Thankfully, the Arkansas Senate wasn't fooled.

To keep up with important legislation moving through the legislature, check out our brand new bill tracker. We scored SB89 as an F.

Image of the story authorNicholas Horton
Founder & CEO

Nic Horton is a native Arkansan and Founder & CEO of Opportunity Arkansas. He has spent more than a decade in the conservative movement as an expert on election, disability, tax, welfare, and workforce reform.

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