At the request of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, more than 130 religious leaders and people of faith have signed a “Call to Fairness” statement that urges legislators to “take action to enact a fair and just tax structure for the common good of all Arkansans.”
Low- and middle-income Arkansas families pay 12 cents of every dollar they earn in state and local taxes, compared to 6 cents on every dollar paid by the richest one percent of taxpayers, said Rich Huddleston, executive director of AACF.
“Reducing the burden our tax system puts on working families will require support from all corners of our community,” Huddleston said. “We’re grateful that these faith leaders have stepped forward to urge lawmakers to make a dent in poverty during this legislative session.”
The Rev. Steve Copley helped AACF gather commitments from faith leaders.
“The Call to Fairness is a statement by the faith community calling for fairness for all in our society,” Copley said. “This is in conjunction with other legislation that will help the poor in our midst.”
AACF and the faith leaders called for the passage of three policy items this session:
· Senate Bill 470 by Sen. Joyce Elliott, which would create a legislative taskforce on reducing poverty and promoting economic opportunity.
· House Bill 1378 by Rep. Allen Maxwell, which would provide additional income tax relief to low-income households with two or more children.
· Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposal to reduce the grocery tax from 3 percent to 2 percent.
The statement was conceived by Copley and the Rev. Pat Bodenhamer, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and state tax and budget outreach director for AACF.
“Both child advocates and the community of faith believe wholeheartedly that together with our elected officials we can take a holy risk and enact fairer and more balanced tax policies in Arkansas,” Bodenhamer said. “You may be asking yourself, is tax policy really an issue that the faith community should be involved in? We, along with over 100 faith leaders in Arkansas, say yes it is.”
The Call to Fairness statement reads:
As people of faith, why should we be concerned about tax policy? Tax policy is not only an economic issue but it is also a moral and faith issue. Many of the faith traditions are concerned about how society treats “the least of these” in our midst. There are references in many of our traditions to concern for the poor, the least and the powerless. All people are created in God’s image and therefore deserving of just treatment.
Therefore, we agree that concern for the poor is deeply rooted in the various faith traditions of the people of Arkansas. This concern for the poor calls us to challenge the realities which create and maintain poverty.
We agree that the tax structures in Arkansas are regressive in nature and have a far greater negative impact on the poor and middle income than any other segment of society.
We agree that this constitutes an economic injustice which must be exposed and challenged by people of faith.
We agree that any change to the tax structure falls upon the leaders of state government.
We urge them to take action to enact a fair and just tax structure for the common good of all Arkansans.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is a statewide, non-profit child advocacy organization established in 1977. Its mission is to ensure that all children and their families have the resources and opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives and to realize their full potential.