Speculation has swirled that Gov. Asa Hutchinson will run for President in 2024. At the Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday (Nov. 14) the outgoing governor didn’t make any announcements but he touched on a lot of national policy themes.
Inflation, higher interest rates, and supply chain problems have plagued the U.S. economy for the better part of a year, and Hutchinson thinks the problem is an inconsistent energy policy at the federal level. President Joe Biden’s administration has tried to transition the country from fossil fuels to green energy, and Hutchinson thinks it’s a mistake to abandon all fossil fuels.
“We in the United States must produce energy,” he said. “It’s important to produce energy here.”
Solving the country’s economic woes will be a difficult problem to tackle, he said. Consistent energy policy would be a start. Lawmakers need to be wary of burdensome regulations that can stymie business and the best way to drive inflation down is to allow for free market solutions, he said.
Part of the problem with the supply chain is that it’s too “China-centric” and the U.S. needs to take steps to produce more goods domestically. China has essentially turned into the world’s manufacturer, and we need some of that manufacturing base to come back to states like Arkansas, he added.
“We like to build things in Arkansas,” he said.
The term-limited governor touted his tenure with the Department of Homeland Security, noting that he worked there in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. His job was to secure the nation’s borders and protect the country’s modes of transportation, he said.
On the state front, Hutchinson reviewed his accomplishments as governor. He noted that taxes were slashed numerous times during his tenure, and the state did better than most during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he’s increased funding for education and the state has its largest ever budget surplus, at $2 billion. As the outgoing governor, one of his final duties is to present the next year’s budget. His last budget includes more than $500 million more for education.
The governor said he expects a smooth transition from his administration to that of Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She is the first female governor ever elected in Arkansas, and it marks the first time since Reconstruction that Republicans will control the governor’s office in consecutive administrations.
One place Hutchinson has visited often during his eight years in office is Mississippi County. The county’s growing steel industry has created thousands of high paying jobs, and the county is now the single highest steelmaking county in the country. There are an estimated 5,400 steel workers in Arkansas, and Hutchinson thinks that it’s only a matter of time before the Natural State overtakes Pennsylvania as the top steel producer in the country.
“I talk a lot about Mississippi County when I’m out across the country. When I tell them we are about to become the top steel producer, most people clap unless there is someone from Pennsylvania in the crowd. They don’t like to hear that,” Hutchinson said with a laugh.