By Governor Sara Sanders
Look around Arkansans – your state has changed a lot in the past 100 days. Since I took office in January, my administration has launched sweeping overhauls of our schools, public safety, tax system, and more. I’m delivering on my promise to be a changemaker for the people of Arkansas. I worked hand-in-hand with our legislators to pass all my major policy proposals into law. And I’m just getting started. First among those accomplishments is Arkansas LEARNS. It’s my plan to address teachers’ needs, defend parents’ rights, and give our kids the quality education they deserve. The bill starts by raising annual starting teacher pay from $36,000 to$50,000 and giving every teacher in the state at least a $2,000 raise. Every Arkansas teacher is getting paid more– and school districts won’t be on the hook for any of it. We’re also giving families the right to choose whichever school works best for their family, whether it be public, private, parochial, or homeschool. And we’re investing in public schools by dramatically expanding early literacy programs, pre-k, and career and technical education. These changes are already paying off. Because of LEARNS, the state is keeping Marvell-Elaine School District open – something that wasn’t possible before. It’s not enough to simply educate the next generation of Arkansans, though. We have to keep our kids safe, whether they’re online or on the streets. I passed a law that holds social media companies accountable for exploiting our kids and damaging their mental health – something that study after study has shown is happening. Soon, all Arkansans under 18 will need parental permission to get on social media. We’ve also made landmark changes to Arkansas’ criminal justice system to crack down on the criminals that are terrorizing our cities. That includes raising the minimum amount of time felony offenders must serve behind bars before they’re let out on supervised release – and for the most egregious crimes, eliminating supervised release entirely. We will also build a new, 3,000-bed prison to alleviate the severe prison bed shortage in our state and ensure that inmates don’t walk free simply for lack of space. These changes will be tough on criminals, but that’s Arkansas justice: tough, but fair. Improving education and public safety will foster new talent, families, and businesses. But as long as we have some of the highest tax rates in the region, people will leave Arkansas for greener pastures. That’s just basic economics. That’s why I announced sweeping tax cuts that, this year alone, will reduce personal income taxes by $150 million and corporate income taxes by $36 million. That affects 1.1 million Arkansans – the majority of tax-payers in our state. We’re regaining our competitive edge against zero income tax states like Tennessee and Texas. And this is just the start – I’m committed to cutting government waste until we can responsibly phase out our state income tax entirely. Moving forward, a big part of Arkansas’ advantage over our neighbors will be our natural beauty. Alongside my husband, Bryan, I launched the Natural State Initiative, and we just passed legislation to cut red tape at state parks, invite new businesses into the recreation economy, and welcome more Arkansans to our natural spaces. Amid all this change, tornadoes hit Arkansas and leveled whole neighbor-hoods in Central Arkansas and Wynne. I was on the ground from the out-set, meeting with survivors, directing relief efforts, and coordinating with our local, state, and federal partners. It will take us a long time to recover from the devastation left by those storms. But even as I surveyed the damage, I watched as Arkansans came together, stood up, and helped each other out. We are stronger than anything Mother Nature can throw our way. In that spirit, I know that the progress my administration made in our first 100 days will be effective. Government can’t just wave a wand and bring about positive development – it takes all of us, working together, to make real change. Luckily, Arkansas is blessed with the best people on the face of planet earth. That’s why I’m excited for the next eight years. The people of Arkansas stand united, and we’re ready to leave the failed status quo in the dust.