Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s final regular session State of the State address was given on Tuesday (Jan. 12), the second day of the 93rd General Assembly. Legislators from both chambers and across the political spectrum shared their reaction to the speech with Talk Business & Politics.
Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View
“Closing the digital divide with access to high-speed broadband is a huge priority for me and many in the legislature. I was very glad to hear the Governor’s willingness to fund this effort at $30 million, and I think it should be more. Governor Hutchinson rightly focused on the remarkable strength and resilience of Arkansas’ economy with historic tax cuts of over $800 million dollars, a well-funded long-term reserve fund, a huge surplus that exceeded forecast by over $300 million dollars – all in spite of a global pandemic – with more tax relief on the way. I am very excited to work with the Governor on his education policy priorities, especially computer science and raising teachers’ salaries.”
Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff
“In his last address opening a regular legislative session, Gov. Hutchinson’s address was upbeat and touched on some key agenda items that I believe we must all support: a $2,000 pay increase for teachers, a $30 million investment to expand high-speed Internet into more rural areas in our state, and long overdue hate crimes legislation. However, I was hoping for a bolder statement about the domestic terrorists that attacked our national capitol and threatens state capitols in the coming days. And boasting about our commitment to life fell flat for me. We must demonstrate this commitment beyond anti-abortion policies while we boast the most permissive gun laws, highest incarceration rates, and draconian death penalty policies in the nation.”
Sen. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith
“Governor Hutchinson has always set a high expectation of both himself and the Legislature. The Governor’s State of the State speech clearly reflects his desire to keep pushing those high expectations. With regard to taxes, policy initiatives, and challenges ahead of us – the pandemic and others – he asked us to keep pushing for high expectations.
Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis
“I thought this was his most comfortable State of State address. He spent more time on hate crimes legislation than any other and is obviously committed to seeing it passed. He also referred to income tax cuts plus the surplus, while mentioning government being fully funded. I disagree, for instance, in education we know that the catastrophic fund is underfunded. I would like to see the teacher ratio in K-3 lowered to 1:12. The teacher salary increase is a good start but we should set higher goals to match our peer group. I appreciate the governor denouncing the mob who overtook our Capitol last week. He knows from experience the problems associated with white supremacist groups.”
Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville
“Overall, the speech highlighted some great accomplishments in state government over the last several years since he become governor and he also addressed several of the challenges we face moving forward. Not really anything new, just a restating of the governor’s policy proposals for this upcoming session. In my opinion, things like pro-life legislation, increased teacher pay, and expanded access for broadband, should have broad support and will likely pass fairly easily. Details of tax cut proposals, how much to set aside in reserves, and items on the emergency orders list, like telemedicine, will probably be well-debated, but eventually pass. However, a few items face an uphill battle and it will remain to be seen the outcome of each.”
Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville
“The Governor’s State of the State speech today reminded us of the importance of compassion. We will, at times, disagree on what that means – to me, more aggressive COVID relief efforts and a fairer tax code are urgently and desperately needed. But there will also be times we will agree – such as on the need for criminal justice reform and hate crimes legislation. I look forward to working with the Governor both when we agree and when don’t, knowing that we share compassion for our neighbors as our driving force.”
State Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro
“I appreciate the governor’s expression of a willingness to work with the legislature, especially those issues related the Emergency Order. Representative Gonzalez and I have already filed supportive legislation to codify much of what the governor said he would like us to address. I look forward to engaging members of the Arkansas Legislature and the governor to the benefit of all Arkansans.”
Later today, Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, will be a guest on Talk Business & Politics daily show, which can be viewed on the home page of TalkBusiness.net.