House Speaker-elect Rep. Davy Carter sat down for an interview with Talk Business last night. Mostly fluff but they did talk about the coming legislative agenda and Carter is at least positioning himself as a relative moderate (though Carter’s past record is more or less that of an orthodox conservative).
Medicaid is by far the number one issue that we’re facing. It is very difficult. I do not know the answers, I don’t think anybody in the body will tell you that they know the answers to solve that problem….Take a deep breath, let’s gather the facts that we’re dealing with. Understand the rules. It’s fundamentally the most important, complex thing that we’re going to deal with this session, perhaps even beyond the session. Tangentially [the Medicaid debate] will drive debate on tax policy and budgeting because of the enormous amount of money that we spend [and the] big shortfall we’re facing right now.
Hey, here’s one way to help with the state fiscal picture and the immediate shortfall!
On whether members are open to changing their mind on Medicaid expansion:
Members are a little bit frustrated… we don’t know what the rules are going to be. Expansion — what are these things going to cost? What can we do, what can’t we do? We are waiting on rules to be promulgated from Washington and sent down to us. To the extent that members may be “boxed in” [in their position on expansion], if that’s the case, it’s probably more of a result of not knowing what hand we have to play or what rules we have to play.
Without parsing this too closely, this sounds to me like the beginning of winding down some of the hardcore anti-expansion campaign rhetoric. Faced with the political and budgetary consequences of rejecting expansion, this is how you walk it back: take a deep breath, let’s sit down and figure out how this works, etc. That’s a long way from “our view is that supporting Medicaid expansion is really embracing President Obama’s law," as we heard from Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman last summer.
On co-pays and drug testing:
Maybe there’s been some talk of that. When we get down to the heart of the matter, co-pays and drug testing aren’t going to solve the $350 million shortfall that we have. That’s a bigger issue than that. I don’t want the debate to be about things like that.
We all want to cut taxes. We need to first agree on how much we can do responsibly.... Groceries are high, I understand that; we also have to look at the worker and let's look and see how we can make our income-tax code more fair and reasonable.
Income-tax reform has been Carter's signature issue. When pressed specifically on possible capital gains tax cuts, Carter responded with an awkward "ahhh…to be determined."
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