Hutchinson: No Medicaid expansion, no highway program | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hutchinson: No Medicaid expansion, no highway program

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge asa.jpg

Gov. Asa Hutchinson:
Can't have a highway building program (or a special session on it) without the Medicaid expansion money. Unless, in the alternative, taxes are raised, and that's a no-go politically. He wants to use surplus, plus general revenue transfers for highways. Without Medicaid money, it won't be available.

At a press conference with members of the Highway Commission, he said  one-time money also is no solution for the long haul. This has been suggested by opponents of the Medicaid expansion.

He was asked if he lacks votes for the Medicaid budget. He reiterated that 10 senators holding firm against Medicaid appropriation. That's enough to defeat the bill, with 75 percent of the Senate, or 27 of 35 votes, traditionally considered necessary for passage.

He said the only proposals for alternative money — Sen. Bart Hester's ideas to sell War Memorial Stadium and AETN — were "not realistic."

He noted that the Kochs, who say they oppose corporate welfare, take corporate "incentives." He said the incentives were good and the legislature supported them.

Prompted by Rep. Charlie Collins, Hutchinson said a loss of $200 million in federal matching money from failure to pass a highway program wouldn't reduce the federal deficit, but simply be transferred to other states.

Prepared statement from governor:

In a news conference this afternoon, Governor Asa Hutchinson warned of the consequences to any new highway program if funding for Arkansas Works was not passed.

The governor’s recommendation, announced earlier this year, provides the use of $40 million from accumulated and unused surplus to meet the state match for new federal highway funds. This transfer is designed to meet the 9/30/16 deadline so that the state will not lose available federal funding for Arkansas highways. If Arkansas Works does not pass then there will be substantial cuts in state services as a result of the budget hole in excess of $100 million. As a result, in addition to the cuts indicated by the House’s alternative budget released Monday, conservative budgeting will require the surplus funds to be retained for emergency needs of the state and to fill other gaps in budget shortfalls from prisons to education to foster care needs.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:
“The legislative decision on Arkansas Works funding comes at a critical time for our state’s highway program. From much needed improvements to existing roadways to new and necessary projects around the state – a lot of work is left to be done. If we fail to provide the state’s match by September 30, 2016, we will lose hundreds of millions in federal highway dollars. Part of my proposed plan, in year one, calls for the one-time use of $40 million from accumulated and unused surplus in order for the state to meet the required match. However, that proposal becomes impossible without the funding for Arkansas Works due to the extraordinary budget gap that will result. Highway infrastructure is important to any state, but it is especially important to Arkansas. Our economy has momentum. The private sector is outgrowing the public sector, and the state’s unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades. A hit to our highways now would be devastating for future economic growth.”

Mike Preston, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) issued the following statement:

"Success in economic development starts with a solid infrastructure base. Highways are an extremely important component of that infrastructure. If we start utilizing highway funds to cover cost gaps in other programs, Arkansas then becomes less attractive to companies considering expanding or locating here."

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