Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Little Rock Black Caucus members meet with governor on Kurrus; decide to proceed with Medicaid deal

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 7:00 PM

ELLIOTT: "We got some things worked out."
  • ELLIOTT: "We got some things worked out."
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus who represent Little Rock today met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson to discuss the dismissal of Little Rock School Superintendent Baker Kurrus

Sen. Joyce Elliott and Sen. Linda Chesterfield both told the media that the governor's actions on Kurrus eroded their trust in working with him on his scheme to pass the Medicaid budget

"You really began to feel that you were part of the team because he respected the [Black] Caucus enough to visit with us," Chesterfield said this morning, prior to their meeting with the governor. "Now we find out we don’t even have the same uniform. Because when you do this kind of thing you tear up trust. And at this delicate time, trust is critical." She added: "We want the 267,000 folks to maintain health care coverage, no doubt about that. But we also want the 25,000 students in the Little Rock School District to also have stability." 

Chesterfield and Elliott this morning (again, that's before they met with the governor) declined to comment on whether they would withhold their vote on the Medicaid deal over the Kurrus firing or demand his reinstatement in exchange for participating in the governor's ploy to pass Medicaid expansion. By this afternoon, they both said that they were moving ahead with the Medicaid deal because the stakes of ensuring health coverage for 267,000 Arkansans are so important.  

"We got some things worked out," Elliott said about the meeting with the governor. "We expressed our opinion. I think he clearly understands our position and he clearly understands how we felt. I think that will yield dividends going forward." 

The governor's spokesman, J.R. Davis, said, "There was some frustration [on the part of the lawmakers], and rightfully so for the way it was announced. The governor listened and understood where they were coming from. We appreciated where they were coming from." 

The governor’s office declined to comment on why the timing of the Kurrus announcement was so brutal. My guess is that the announcement did not happen when the governor thought it would.

On the Medicaid deal, Davis said, "Arkansas Works and Medicaid expansion is near and dear to their hearts. I think they can understandably separate the two. They had some concerns and frustrations over the Kurrus situation and the governor lended an ear to those concerns, which needed to happen. He understands where they were coming from and vowed to work with them going forward."
Obviously, that stops short of actually reversing course on the decision to replace Kurrus. 

Support for special health care reporting made possible by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

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