Curtis Coleman, who announced in February he’d seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2014, says he wants to dramatically modify the state’s tax code, decentralize economic development, and provide a bridge for the state’s hospitals to weather a transition period for reforms to take place.
Coleman, who appeared on Wednesday’s Talk Business Arkansas webcast/podcast, said he learned a lot from his failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign when he placed fifth out of eight candidates.
“I learned a lot from the Senate race,” Coleman said, especially on the need to raise funds. “I got a real clear, first-hand expensive lesson on how important it is to do that early, and we’ve taken a very different and aggressive approach to raising money and it’s going well.”
Coleman and other declared candidates will have to file their first campaign fundraising reports on April 15.
He said that his work with Tea Party organizations throughout the state have also added to his campaign experience. “I was involved in what a lot of people tell us is the strongest statewide grassroots political campaign organization seen in this state,” Coleman said.
Republican Asa Hutchinson has also indicated he will run for Governor in 2014. On the Democratic side, former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is the only announced candidate.
“We have an onerous tax code in this state. We have the most anti-business, job unfriendly tax code of any state we touch,” said Coleman.
He said that his top priority as Governor would be to develop a “pro-business, pro-jobs tax code” that includes adjusting personal and corporate income tax rates and possibly eliminating capital gains taxes.
Coleman said reforming those tax areas may require changes in the state’s property, sales and franchise taxes – which are higher in surrounding states. For now, Coleman said he doesn’t have a fully developed solution, just a direction for where he’d like to see tax reform begin.
“The balance is something we’re going to have to find,” Coleman said. “I don’t have all the answers today, but that’s where I want to go.”
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Coleman, an opponent of the federal health care law, is opposed to a straight Medicaid expansion. He’s also not convinced that new federal flexibility to allow Medicaid funds to be used in a state-federal health insurance exchange is a solution.
“I still see major problems with it. It’s better than the original option mainly because private insurance companies have a history of better reimbursement rates for health care providers, especially our hospitals in the state,” he said.
Coleman contends that restructuring the tax code can eventually move people off Medicaid rolls, but he acknowledges that it wouldn’t happen quickly. Therefore, he said some hospitals would need financial assistance until his vision of economic prosperity takes root.
“I would push back against expanding Medicaid in Arkansas fundamentally, and I would go to work on developing a plan to help our rural hospitals and our state hospital survive that transition period, that spin-up period, where we reduce the cost of government, change the tax code, let people start to build businesses in Arkansas, and then start to see the economy prosper,” Coleman said.
He supports allocating money from state general revenues or a specially created fund for revenue for hospitals during the transition.
Coleman has also suggested that state economic development efforts be decentralized, putting more emphasis on local economic development efforts.
With more investment and encouragement in local chamber efforts, Coleman said he thinks more small businesses would evolve.
“I’d like to see us start 150 new companies, small new start-up companies, every year than instead of one big major project once a generation,” Coleman suggested.
You can view his interview below or listen to a mp3 file here.