Asa Hutchinson announces; continues to duck private option preference; emphasizes minorities | Arkansas Blog

Monday, February 24, 2014

Asa Hutchinson announces; continues to duck private option preference; emphasizes minorities

Posted By on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 3:13 PM

click to enlarge ANNOUNCING AND DUCKNG: Asa Hutchinson at Capitol.
  • ANNOUNCING AND DUCKNG: Asa Hutchinson at Capitol.

Asa Hutchinson announced as a Republican candidate for governor today and he continued to dodge stating a preference on the private option expansion of Medicaid, perhaps due for a climactic vote tomorrow. Whatever happens, it will shape budget decisions dramatically — for good or ill — for the person who takes office as governor in January.

David Ramsey reports that Hutchinson chose instead to emphasize his outreach to minorities — black and Latino. But on the bigger issue of the day, Hutchinson said:

I'm hoping that the legislature, as they're divided right now that they can bring this together and they can end this debate. I have intentionally stayed out of it because one, you only have one governor at a time, I don't have a vote in the process. I'm talking to them, I understand the difficulty because this all started in Washington, D.C. with the passage of the Affordable Care Act that has caused enormous disruption with our healthcare system in Arkansas. They're trying to work it out. I do hope that they're able to conclude this quickly and urge them to resolve this and I think the last thing they need me is to be holding a news conference and telling them what to do. Once they decide that, then my job is to take the decisions they make now and this governor makes and say this is what I want to do in 2015 when the pieces are there, looking at it form a budget standpoint and from the standpoint of making sure our citizens have good access to health care. We will take the baton after they complete their work. Then we will move forward in 2015 but let's wait and see how that shapes up. 

But what if voters want to know where Hutchinson stands?

I want to give the maximum latitude to our friends in the legislature. The negotiations are sensitive, they're trying to resolve that and again I don't think they need a candidate who's not going to be involved in the process until 2015 to start invoking themselves here. 

But, does Hutchinson have a position yet, even if secret?

I'm looking at it just like every other voter is looking at it. First of all we recognize the problem. I've been a stronger opposer of the Affordable Care Act. I campaigned against it across Arkansas. I do not like what Congress did. ... that's the first message I have. Secondly, they need to know that as a governor, I will oppose a one-payer system of health care. 

In other words, some of his friends like some parts of it and some of his friends don't like some parts of it and he's with his friends. He never did explain where that single-payer garble came from. It has not, is not and will not be up for debate.

Hutchinson emphasized instead today outreach to black and Latino voters, sectors he and his party have rarely done well with, for obvious reasons. The GOP hates affirmative action, a path to citizenship and other programs popular with those voters. Hutchinson said he didn't intend to take those voters for granted. He's appointed a minority "outreach steering committee" that includes Mayor Arnell Willis of Helena-West Helena, attorney Leon Jones of Pine Bluff, consultant Herbert Morales and Rogers businessman Carlos Chicas.

Also, by an evasive answer to a question with which he ended his news conference, Hutchinson indicated he hasn't smoothed out "cliffs" in his income tax reduction plan that produce anomalous jumps in taxation at tax bracket break points, unlike a smooth graduated tax normally would do.

The Democratic Party welcomed Hutchinson to the race with a website highlighting him as, in essence, a hard-hearted congressman, big-spending bureaucrat and fatcat lobbyist.

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