Manage the Church Budget – Manage the State Budget

By David Ferguson

Last Sunday during church it was announced that the church had a budget problem. Over the past few years the church’s expenditures had been greater than the amount of contributions from the congregation. Because of reserves, the church wasn’t in financial trouble yet, but action needed to be taken.

What do you think was announced next? A never-ending stewardship campaign until the congregation was guilted into fully funding the budget? No.

Instead, the leadership of the country church announced steps the church would take to reduce church expenses. You heard me right; the church would work to cut expenses in order to live within contributions. The steps included reductions in salaries and office hours, and measures to cut utility costs.

Yes, the church teaches giving and urges members to support the church, but the leadership of the congregation was not going to blame its members for not meeting the budget numbers the leaders had set. Instead, the leadership would live within the means provided by the congregation.

How I wish those church leaders were also running state government.

Whenever a new “need” comes to mind, the answer of most Arkansas politicians is to immediately look for taxes to raise, without ever considering where they might cut expenditures in other areas. How to be better stewards of our tax money is never considered by the state. Raising taxes is always the answer despite Arkansas already being a high tax state and the cost of government per person being high.

In 2019 the “need” being discussed was highway funding. Governor Asa Hutchinson’s plan was to increase taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel and to impose a new one-half percent sales tax for highways once a temporary tax for four lane projects expires. Representative Julie Mayberry offered a different solution , a solution that was similar to one proposed in 2013 by former Representative Jonathan Barnett. Instead of increasing taxes, the proposal would have shifted existing taxes to highways. The plan would have necessitated Arkansas politicians to consider where to cut end of the year spending of surplus revenue. Mayberry’s proposal did not even get out of committee and the legislature passed the tax measures.
(Yes, in 2019, some taxes were cut but others were increased. A reduction in the income tax rate for high income earners was passed, but the biggest tax increases were the fuel taxes and the imposition of a new sales tax on your out of state purchases through the internet.)
Today the need being used to justify more tax is highway funding. The next need on the horizon is likely to be more education funding. Regardless of the “need” it is likely the answer will always be – pass more taxes.

Instead of politicians who begin by asking what tax can we raise, we need leaders who will first ask where can we reduce expenditures and cut waste.

[1] HB1501, HB1502, and HB1549 of 2019 [1] HB1418 of 2013