Governor views Arkansas Senators as working towards Medicaid protection; details trade trip to Europe and Israel

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 725 views 

Governor Asa Hutchinson has been in constant contact with U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton in the ongoing debate regarding healthcare reform. While Hutchinson has voiced concerns about cost shifts to the states and protecting Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion, does he feel like Arkansas’ senators are fighting for his position?

“Absolutely, I’ve been very impressed with both our senators in terms of their responsiveness, willingness to listen, take in the issues that I raise around to their colleagues, and obviously it’s very fluid, we don’t know where it’s going to wind up,” said Hutchinson, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.

“I know we’ve got to do something and so I might not get everything I want, but I wanted to raise my voice because it’s very important that the people of Arkansas understand where their Governor is, and that we understand what the cost would be and what’s at stake here in this debate,” he added. “Obviously, our senators care deeply about that and they’re trying to resolve some of these issues. What we have right now doesn’t work, let’s see what — and the Senate’s giving their best effort to give us a good path to the future — but I want to be a voice that’s engaged in that and not just a silent partner that’s saying whatever you give us we can live with.”

Hutchinson discussed other aspects of healthcare reform in the TB&P interview, including President Trump’s end-of-the-week suggestion that Congress simply repeal the Affordable Care Act and come up with a replacement later.

“I think that’s a bad idea,” said Hutchinson. “I mean, you look at the turmoil that the healthcare industry is in right now, just with the Senate debate, with what the reform should be in the future, and then if you just simply repealed the Affordable Care Act without a plan for where we go, that creates too much uncertainty, too much turmoil.”

“And also, it’s not just the healthcare industry. It’s about individual citizens that get worked up about this. I mean, they relied upon Medicaid or they’re relying upon their subsidy in their healthcare, and so we want to provide a clear path of reform. We need reform, we need to repeal and replace and reform the Affordable Care Act, but let’s don’t leave that vacuum there,” he said.

In Hutchinson’s interview, he also discussed his recent trip to France, Germany and Israel to recruit jobs and visit existing foreign companies with Arkansas investments.

The governor said the recent worldwide workforce reduction announced by jet maker Dassault Falcon will sting the company’s Little Rock operations as the industry is in a cyclical downturn.

“They had a small reduction in the workforce, but it’s still one of the largest employers, they’re still very robust, and we wanted to make sure that everything we are doing as a state can support them, which we are,” he said. “We expect there to be future opportunities there, so I think everything is very good with Dassault Falcon Jet even though we want to emphasize the need to keep the economy going strong. But because the economy’s not going strong, then people aren’t buying business jets across the globe, and it’s not just a U.S. issue, it’s a global issue.”

Hutchinson views the defense industry as full of potential prospects for Arkansas. With Congress and the President poised to boost military spending, defense companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Aerojet Rocketdyne in south Arkansas could see a boon.

“Some key defense contractors are here in Arkansas and they’re very upbeat about it. Not just because of U.S. sales, but because of President Trump’s trip to the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, it opened up a significant number of sales that had been prohibited before. Defense items, too, are allies overseas, and so it’s a good market there, I hope that we have some opportunities to expand that here in Arkansas,” he said.

While upbeat, Hutchinson does not foresee a superproject of the magnitude of the JLTV military vehicle that the state was a finalist for two years ago.

He also said that cybersecurity, technology, firearms and defense were part of his mission to open new doors in Israel.

“In Israel, they are incredibly looking forward on technology. I know that Walmart has been engaged there and is looking at some of their technologies. I talked to Doug McMillon about that, but we looked at first of all their cybersecurity connections, and we had incredible meetings there,” Hutchinson said. “They liked what we are doing in Arkansas in terms of computer science and technology education. It fits in well with a cybersecurity front there and the Israeli companies are doing business in the United States as well.

“The other great connection was in the firearms industry, that has a U.S. presence from an Israeli company and obviously with what we have with Sig Sauer, with Remington, with Wilson’s and Nighthawk up in Northwest Arkansas, we’ve got a great opportunity for expansion there. This is all laying the groundwork in some of these calls that we’re making that we’ll follow up with,” he added.

Watch Hutchinson’s full interview below in which he talks about the dicamba debate, voter fraud, and his next trip abroad, possibly to China.