Favorite

The politics of opportunity 

Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.

Arkansas politics, not long ago, had a rare pragmatism and civility that served our state well. Gov. Mike Huckabee pushed through tax increases that radically improved our public education system. Gov. Mike Beebe worked with Republican lawmakers to expand Medicaid. Governor Hutchinson continued that effort in passings Arkansas Works, which now provides life-saving access to quality health care to more than 300,000 Arkansans.

We need pragmatic solutions to expand opportunity because Arkansas can't afford to move backward. We already rank near to last in most indicators of quality of life from income to life expectancy.

And there are numerous issues our leaders should be able to come together on.

On economic development, we need to radically improve our infrastructure and workforce development. We have to find the revenue to pay for the roads we need, but that's not all. Arkansas got a D+ on our infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers. We can create jobs, improve our access to clean drinking water, make our bridges safer, build world class schools, protect our communities from floods and build a strong green energy economy at the same time.

Arkansas retains one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation, taxing poor and middle-income families at over twice the tax rate that our wealthiest people pay. The disparity only got worse with the high-end tax relief passed in the last two legislative sessions. Maybe this will be the session to finally offer working families an earned income tax credit to help lift working people out of poverty.

On civil rights, it should not be a partisan issue to say that the gender pay gap is a problem that needs to be addressed. It should not be a partisan issue to look at the gaps between races on income, housing, health, education, policing, incarceration and more and say that we need to tackle racial inequity head on. Sexual assault became an issue in this presidential election, and Arkansas has an opportunity to reduce both sexual assault and our highest-in-the-nation teen pregnancy rates with common sense reforms to the way we teach children about healthy relationships.

A strong public education system is a universal pillar of economic prosperity. We have a set of proven, near-consensus reforms recommended by groups like Forward Arkansas and the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign. They include improving and expanding pre-K, improving teacher quality, providing more after-school and summer learning opportunities, reforming discipline policies, improving community engagement and doing more to help children in poverty. Yet state policy debates in recent years have been consumed by attempts to gut standards and retreat from adequate funding while embracing radical and controversial theories of privatizing schools. Why are we arguing over the most contentious and speculative elements of education when we have a whole set of proven reforms that already enjoy public support at our disposal?

Arkansas's prison system is among the fastest growing in the country and we know that it has several fundamental flaws. It's unfairly utilized, targeting low-income and people of color at disproportionate rates. It costs too much. It doesn't treat mental illness well. It becomes a trap. It's choked with nonviolent drug offenders. Again, we have proven, nonpartisan reforms at our disposal: diversion programs for nonviolent offenders. Treating mental illness and drug addiction as public health issues instead of crimes. Improving our over-burdened parole and re-entry systems. These will all take short-term investments to yield long-term gain.

We can improve opportunities for Arkansans while protecting our natural resources as well. We can invest in the critical functions farmers can serve to protect and conserve water quality. We can improve our drinking water. We can expand our parks and tourism industries to share our natural heritage with more visitors. We can transition our energy sector to shift away from dirty coal sources of power and create economic incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy production.

Maybe we are too far down the road of partisanship and big-money political influence, but I hope Arkansas can focus on the politics of opportunity after this election. It would be good for our citizens, and it would be nice to see Arkansas leading, for a change.

Bill Kopsky is the executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel

Favorite

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Bill Kopsky

  • Selling kids short

    young professional family told me this week they are thinking of leaving Arkansas because the state isn't committed to education and opportunities for their kids. Another parent of a child with special needs told me she's frustrated her school can't afford the help her child needs to get her reading up to grade level. Another parent's child isn't allowed to bring textbooks home because the school doesn't have enough of them, and can't afford more.
    • Nov 10, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • No prison for mentally ill

    Recent research has shown that Arkansas is unique for its fast-growing prison population. The state also ranks among the lowest in the U.S. for access to mental health care. That's why Governor Hutchinson's 2017 budget allotment for the establishment of three crisis stabilization centers should be applauded.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Still wearing white

    On election night, after a long afternoon of poll-watching, I rushed home to change into my white pantsuit with the rhinestone "HRC" on the back and headed out to my local election party.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • As we saw with the raise in the minimum wage and medical marijuana, there are…

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • Ozark,

      What are the Arkansans marching and rallying about? Is this an anti-Trump rally?

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • He won't clean up his act. He won't even try. He's clueless that his style…

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation