Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the legislature this morning with the customary recitation of achievements during his first term and promises for the second.
Hutchinson took credit for population growth, a better effort to return criminal offenders to society, improvements in the foster care system, better Internet access in schools, computer education, a “transformed” health care system, a more productive state lottery, a reduction in state payroll and more.
He touted a state budget that puts reserve funds aside — $125 million currently — rather than spending it all on services. He said this provided money for future growth.
He encouraged the legislature to make history by reducing taxes, “transforming” state government, raising teacher pay and encouraging growth. He noted his budget includes the hiring of additional probation and parole officers and state troopers. (Here, as in many talking points, you could find naysayers who’d say the governor hasn’t gone far enough. If there is to be any comeback, it will be at a planned Democratic Party response following his speech.)
Example: he mentioned a $1 million increase in spending on agricultural efforts, a drop in the bucket to the money lost by Arkansas farmers thanks to the tariffs imposed by Donald Trump, the leader of Hutchinson’s Republican Party.
Growth — better jobs and education attainment — lead his agenda, Hutchinson said. Here, he said, a tax cut favoring the wealthy is at the top of his agenda. He said lower-income taxpayers have already received a cut. He’s standing by his plan to reduce the number of tax brackets and reduce the top bracket from 6.9 to 5.9 percent, but lower where it kicks
Hutchinson said multiple tax cuts won’t imperil services. The budget will allow cuts while “investing in the future.”
Want more? Fox 16 has the transcript.
We’ll check in on his noon inaugural address shortly
Hutchinson talked in broader themes in his address from the Capitol steps — on faith and public trust, for example. But he also echoed his state of the state remarks to the legislature, again emphasizing a population growth in recent years (though the rate is in the bottom third of the 50 states).
He again emphasized “competitive” tax rates and business expansion. He claimed more people are working and fewer are on social benefits. He didn’t mention studies that debunk the governor’s claim of credit for people going to work and he certainly didn’t mention how his poorly conceived and implemented Medicaid work rule had thrown people off the expanded Medicaid program.
He repeated his earlier remarks about specific initiatives, such as efforts to improve computer science education. He also repeated his mantra to make history with various policy initiatives.
There was little new in the inaugural address, as with the legislative remarks. He merely recited or embellished familiar talking points in recent days and weeks.
To quote many a high school graduation speaker: The future is ahead of us.
That future includes legislation by a General Assembly thoroughly controlled by Republicans. But the Democratic Party will talk about its minority vision soon through the voices of two freshmen legislators, Jay Richardson of Fort Smith and Megan Godfrey of Springdale. Watch them here. Some of their priorities:
We believe in giving every working Arkansas family tax relief, through an Earned Income Tax Credit. And making a meaningful investment in Pre-K for the first time in a decade. And we know our roads needs to be rebuilt.
All these should be higher priorities than a tax break for the richest 13% in our state.
All Arkansans need tax relief, but it doesn’t make sense to a give a tax cut to the wealthy, if the rest of us have the sacrifice so much just to afford it.