In its wisdom, the 90th General Assembly has decided that tax breaks for the rich are more important than literacy. The legislature has cut state library funding by 18 percent, or around $1 million, to help pay for a tax break on capital gains from 30 percent to 50 percent (and to zero on gains more than $10 million). Hell, we don’t need no free book readin’ and learnin’ in Arkansas.
The decision to grant the capital gains break added insult to injury anyway, since the planned cut (which was originally passed back in 2013) was repealed at the first of the session to pay for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $102 million tax break for the middle class. Once that middle class tax cut — which, by the way, didn’t help at all the 40 percent of Arkansans who make less than $21,000 a year — was in the bag, the legislature said just kidding and restored the capital gains tax cut.
The cut will cost the Central Arkansas Library System about $105,000, director Bobby Roberts says, which in the scheme of things isn’t a terrible blow. But it will hurt smaller Arkansas libraries who rely on state funds to operate. Roberts called it “a sad day for the public library movement and for those counties that desperately need support from the state.”
An article in the Baxter Bulletin gives an example of what Roberts is talking about: The Donald W. Reynolds Library in Mountain Home, with a budget of $84,500, is losing $15,210. “That’s a significant amount of money to have to make up when you’re not expecting it,” library director Gwen Khayat is quoted as saying.
State library aid was to remain stable at $5.7 million, according to the original budget, State Library Director Carolyn Ashcraft told the Baxter Bulletin. But the Revenue Stabilization Act, released Friday, showed the funding cut. Community health centers were also cut. The RSA cut most state agency budgets by 1 percent.
Maybe lawmakers will take the $20 million in pork they’re getting and give it to their districts’ libraries. You think?
UPDATE: The RSA puts the $1 million the libraries are losing into the governor’s rainy day fund, which can address problems that might arise. Also going into the rainy day fund to help pay for the capital gains tax cut: $2.5 million for the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority (which had increased that amount in the last budget for the Accelerate Arkansas grant), $4.9 million from the state Health Department’s community health centers and $1 million out of Aging and Adult Services.