Republican gubernatorial candidates Curtis Coleman and Asa Hutchinson fielded questions on the same stage at a Faulkner County Tea Party forum on Monday night.
The two candidates discussed positions on tax reform, education, the private option, and their personal conservative philosophies.
From Matt Mershon with our content partner, KATV Ch. 7 News, reports:
One of the big questions posed to the candidates: “What does being a conservative mean to you?”
“Someone who believes that government should be as non-invasive and non-encroaching and as unessential as possible in your life,” responded Coleman.
Hutchinson referenced the Faulkner County Tea Party sign behind him when he answered the same question.
“I think there’s a pretty good definition right here,” said Hutchinson. “Promotes constitutional government and fiscal responsibility.”
The two GOP candidates differed in their approach to the controversial private option, which has mixed Republican support.
Hutchinson said he would not have vetoed the measure if Governor. Coleman said he would have.
Hutchinson has previously said he would have preferred the legislature deal with the Medicaid expansion issue in a special session. More recently, he has said he considers the private option to be “a pilot program” that will be re-evaluated if he is Governor.
Coleman also has called for reductions in state agency budgets and a phase-in of nearly $2.3 billion in personal and corporate income tax cuts. His plan would reduce Arkansas’ current six tax brackets to five with lower rates over an eight-year time span. He contends that cutting taxes would increase state revenues from a more profitable private sector.
If elected, Hutchinson says he will seek a $100 million income tax cut for middle-income workers to be financed from growth revenue and surplus funds. He said reductions to public education would be “off the table.”
Hutchinson also asked Coleman if he would support him as the Republican nominee if he won the May 20 primary? Coleman said, “Of course I will.”
A Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll released Sunday showed Hutchinson and Democratic front-runner Mike Ross in a virtual dead heat. The poll of 1,068 likely Arkansas voters also indicated that Ross would handily defeat Coleman if he was the GOP nominee.