Gov. Mike Beebe sat down for a one-on-one with Arkansas News Bureau columnist John Brummett on last night’s edition of Talk Business. The wide-ranging, pre-legislative session interview included topics such as tax cuts, health care, partisanship at the capitol, and Beebe’s take on working with a larger GOP minority in the 88th General Assembly, which begins today.
Beebe said he’s been meeting with legislators through the holidays and doesn’t view the new, larger Republican caucus as "monolithic."
"They’re not one voice in one group. They’re like everybody else. They’re like the Democrats," said Beebe. "You have some that are more moderate, you have some that are more conservative. You have some that are interested in education issues and some that are interested in lower taxes. So, you can’t paint them all with the same brush."
On the possibility that Arkansas lawmakers may push for a repeal of health care reform, Beebe was coy about using his veto pen. He said he didn’t want to give the impression that if legislators pass the measure, they can expect him to halt it with a veto.
He also expressed worry about the financial consequences of overturning the federal law at this point before the U.S. Supreme Court makes a final ruling.
"What I worry about is if that doesn’t happen – if it’s not thrown out by the federal judiciary – and we pass something like that, what’s that going to cost our taxpayers? Because inevitably there’s going to be a lawsuit, inevitably there’s going to be damages, inevitably there’s going to be repercussions from that. So if anybody does that, they need to be prepared to understand what the potential cost to the taxpayer might be," said Beebe.
The Governor also remained adamant that finding money for additional tax cuts beyond his proposed half-cent slice of the grocery tax would be difficult.
"It’s the only thing of any substance or size that we can afford. If you’re asking me is there a million dollars here or two million there that we could scrape up or find, I’m not going to be naive enough to say no there’s not a couple million dollars somewhere," said Beebe.
"However, all the tax cuts people are talking about that I’ve heard are unsustainable under our current projected revenue without significant cuts to major programs."
Talk Business will be covering the week’s events, including the swearing-in of state lawmakers, House leadership assignments, and Beebe’s inaugural address and State of the State speech.
You can access the Beebe-Brummett on-air interview, which we will share more of throughout the week, in the two videos below.