The comments Tuesday (Jan. 13) after Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s first speech to the 90th General Assembly were mostly positive.
Hutchinson was sworn into office on Tuesday. After his swearing-in, Hutchinson delivered remarks to a joint session of the Arkansas House and State Senate.
State Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, who defeated incumbent State Sen. Robert Thompson, D-Paragould, in the November general election, said he thought the speech by Hutchinson in the House chamber was optimistic in tone.
“I thought he did a great job,” Johnson said. “He addressed a lot of the issues he brought up in the campaign.”
Johnson said the announcement of a Jan. 22 speech by Hutchinson on the private option will officially start the debate in the legislature.
“The near term and the long term, the bringing together will take work,” Johnson said of an agreement.
State Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, agreed with Johnson on the speech.
“It was an excellent speech,” Ingram said. “There is no greater issue than economic development and workforce training. I’d like to see his budget and the tax cut proposal.”
Ingram said the ADTEC program – an education and workforce training program being used in Northeast Arkansas – has provided a good opportunity to get people prepared for their future.
Ingram said Mid-South Community College, which is in his district, has provided a “great model” for the state.
Ingram also credited former Gov. Mike Beebe on the issue.
“He has always said that education and economic development are tied. He helped to lay the groundwork and I am excited that Gov. Hutchinson wants to continue it,” Ingram said.
Ingram said he also supports a plan to help supplement the salary for the new director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, noting other surrounding states like Mississippi have done the practice.
Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, who defeated Democrat Radius Baker last November, said he was impressed by Hutchinson’s speech in the chamber.
“The governor laid out an agenda. It was very encouraging, especially the tax breaks,” Tosh said. “I look forward to working with him.”
On the private option debate, Tosh said he is hopeful that the debate will be productive.
“I hope everyone will reserve comments until we hear what the governor has to say,” Tosh said.
Rep. Joe Jett, D-Success, who will chair the Revenue and Taxation committee that will likely debate the tax cut proposal, said the tax cut proposal could be brought up by early to mid-February.
“I appreciate Gov. Hutchinson’s remarks. I want to work to make him successful,” Jett said.
Hutchinson is expected to introduce the tax cut plan by the end of the week.
“We will go over the plan, see where the money is,” Jett said. “With Duncan Baird (new budget director), there has been definite due diligence.”
Rep. Mary Broadaway, D-Paragould, also was complimentary of Hutchinson’s legislative remarks.
“My takeaway from the Governor’s speech is that he wants to make a real effort to work together to improve Arkansas. He has some ideas that he believes are going to be best for our state, and I’m looking forward to working with him and hoping to make this a better place,” the Paragould attorney said.
When asked if she can cross party lines and work with a Republican governor, Broadaway grinned, “My profession is always working in adversarial situations to try to come together and create solutions that are going to work. So, absolutely I can work with this Governor.”