Governor candidate Chris Jones meets with agency directors, says he’ll be ready on Day 1

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 2,893 views 

Chris Jones at the podium.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Jones said he has spent weeks over the campaign meeting with the secretaries of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s cabinet in an effort to better understand the budgets and issues impacting those agencies.

“I’ve met with all the secretaries of each of the 15 agencies, and the senior leadership. And we went over the budget, we went over their strategic plans, we went over the challenges and the opportunities that exist in the horizon. Why do that? Because I think it’s important for the next governor to be ready to lead on Day 1,” Jones said.

Jones appeared on this week’s edition of Capitol View and Talk Business & Politics. He faces Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. Harrington is scheduled to appear on Capitol View in two weeks. Sanders declined 28 interview requests with Talk Business & Politics over a 22-month period. This week, her campaign said she would “respectfully decline” a one-on-one interview between now and Election Day.

Jones’ weekend interview centered on a variety of topics he’ll face if he wins the governorship, including education, crime, job growth and health care.

While Jones’ education platform includes investments in pre-K, efforts to boost reading, more funding for community colleges, and teacher pay raises, he said he doesn’t have a total price tag on all of those investments, which certainly stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I do have a price tag on us not making those investments. When you think about an investment in pre-K, we know that kids that go to pre-K are more likely to read by third grade. And if you’re reading by third grade, you’re less likely to go to prison. We know that if there are opportunities for trade schools to really train the future workforce that attracts new businesses. So the cost of not doing it is super high. Now, we have numbers, but I’m not prepared today to give you an exact price tag. And the reality of it is the legislature is the one who holds the purse strings. So it has to be a dialogue and a conversation with legislature,” he said.

Jones said tackling the issue of crime and public safety is “multi-faceted.”

His plan to improve pre-school, broadband and jobs – which he labels PB&J – is his long-term solution to reducing crime. In the short-term, he said he’s not opposed to building a new prison and looking at ways to more successfully rehabilitate minor offenders to free up space for violent ones because he thinks Arkansas’ incarceration rate is already too high.

“I’m not opposed to building a new prison. I mean, I think there are short-term fixes and there are long-term fixes. Part of this is: are we having the conversation with communities and really talking about what does community safety look like in the county and the municipality and the region, and what are the needs there? So I’m not going to take anything off the table in terms of addressing the needs. However, my question and concern is: are we really solving it by getting at the root cause or are we increasing prison beds? Look, we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, if not the world. So we’re locking people up, and is it really solving the problem? The answer is no because we still have crime,” he said.

Jones said Arkansas must do more to promote education and responsibility on the issue of teen pregnancy. A report this month showed that Arkansas has the highest teen birth rate in the nation.

“As the father of a 13-year old, and as a father of three daughters, statistics like that concern me deeply,” Jones said. “We know when there’s sex education, when there’s education around the implications and the consequences, we know that people make different decisions. And we see that in every area, we see that… I learned it in my household growing up. The more my folks educated me on things and I was clear on the consequences and the decisions of my actions, I tended to make different decisions.”

He supports the state’s Medicaid expansion program, now known as AR Works. Jones said the program is critical to keeping urban and rural hospitals open.

You can watch Jones’ full interview in the video below.