One day after Republicans made historic gains and appear in control of both chambers of the General Assembly, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe said he expects bipartisanship to be the order of the day in both chambers.
Beebe spoke to reporters at the state capitol and revealed he had already had a conversation with Sen. Michael Lamoureux (R-Russellville), the expected Senate President under GOP control.
The Governor said Lamoureux said he “looked forward to working in bipartisan fashion” with Beebe. He had not spoken with Rep. Terry Rice (R-Waldron) who could be House Speaker if Republicans hold onto a projected 51-48-1 advantage in that chamber.
Democratic officials are contemplating a challenge to the outcome of a House District 52 seat, which appears to be won by Republican John Hutchison over Democrat L.J. Bryant. Less than 50 votes separate the two candidates and a reversal in the outcome would prevent the GOP from a clear majority for House control.
As for the transfer of power in both chambers between already elected Democratic leaders and expected Republican replacements, Beebe said he would avoid injecting himself in their business.
“They’ll figure it out,” Beebe said.
Beebe also told reporters that he did not view the 2012 election victories for Republicans as a “GOP surge.” He said 2010 was a surge year for Republicans, while 2012 was more of “an incremental advance.”
“It’s easier to be in the minority and harder to govern as a majority,” Beebe said, “But I’m confident leadership in the legislature will rise to the occasion.”
In the coming 2013 legislative session, Beebe and GOP legislators are expected to have competing agendas on tax reform, education and Medicaid.
The Governor said the grocery tax cut would remain his top tax reform priority, but Republicans have signaled they want to examine other tax cuts or reforms to the income tax code.
Beebe also said that when he reveals his balanced budget proposal next week legislators can expect to see “progress” on closing a Medicaid shortfall, but it won’t close the gap totally, he added.
He has said earlier that he plans to steer more general revenue and some surplus money to the Medicaid budget, which could experience a $250-$400 million projected deficit. Beebe has also asked state Medicaid officials to review programs for potential cuts in services without eliminating programs.