Religious leaders and child advocates held a press conference at the state capitol this morning to issue a "Call to Fairness" statement, putting pressure on legislators to support policies intended to fight poverty. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, along with Rev. Steve Copley, presented the signatures of over 130 religious leaders and people of faith in support of three particular policies: Sen. Elliot's SB 470, which would create a legislative task force to reduce poverty and promote economic opportunity; Rep. Maxwell's HB 1378, a bill designed to provide income relief for poorer households with two or more children; and the reduction of the grocery tax from three to two percent (which is backed by Gov. Beebe and expected to pass). Maxwell's bill lists 80 co-sponsors in the House.
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.