Asa Hutchinson is taking questions at a Capitol forum sponsored today by the Associated Press. Benji Hardy is on hand and will report in more detail, but the tweets are rolling in. Said the governor to be:
* TAX CUT FIRST: No need to deal with the private option before cutting income taxes as he promised during the campaign. He says, however, that some previously approved tax cuts could be reviewed for a delay in budget planning.
* PRIVATE OPTION: Why, yes, it must be considered as part of “health care reform.” He plans “major speech.” Still dodging, in other words.
* HIGHWAYS: No highway program in 2015 regular session. Not surprising. No program without tax increase or taking money from somebody else.
* PRISONS: He expects option other than $100 million new prison from his new prison chief. Cheap Louisiana gulags, maybe? I presume he doesn’t mean shorter sentences and more paroles. UPDATE: Prison transfers to gulags not a “long-term solution.” Meaning, in the short term, get the buses ready. He also mentions private operators. Gulp.
* ETHICS: He says he wants to talk about it. Only specific so far is support for on-line campaign filing. Oh, and while discussing “reform” says we need to raise the limit on individual campaign contributions.
* SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION: He’s open to exceptions to the 350-student consolidation rule.
UPDATE: Benji offers this observation on remarks about prison and parole:
…. a little surprising how strong his language is, given his caution on everything else. He says “we must have a parole system…with capability of changing behavior of parolees.” He mentions high recidivism rates and “breaking the cycle.” He says we have to invest in a reentry program, and make sure people have housing options.