Democrats gig governor on power grab; questions linger on Mansion spending | Arkansas Blog

Monday, May 23, 2016

Democrats gig governor on power grab; questions linger on Mansion spending

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 9:38 AM

Too little and too late, but the Arkansas Democratic Party today rapped Gov. Asa Hutchinson for holding jobs hostage to his takeover of a couple of state commissions, which I mentioned earlier this morning. Said Party Chair Vince Insalaco:

“In the past few days, Republican House Speaker Jeremy Gillam held good-paying Arkansas jobs hostage in North East Arkansas as part of a larger gubernatorial power grab. Democratic leadership helped bring Nucor Steel to Northeast Arkansas. Now, rather than doing all we can to enhance job opportunities for our fellow Arkansans, Speaker Gillam has said he will hold up job creation in order to give complete control of the people’s house to Governor Hutchinson.”

“To obtain complete control of both the History Commission and Governor’s Mansion Commission, Speaker Gillam threatened to derail a project that will enhance job creation in Northeast Arkansas. For decades, all-volunteer commissions have overseen both the History Commission and the Governor’s Mansion, in part to shield efforts to preserve Arkansas’s heritage from extravagant spending scandals and political power plays.”

“It is very disheartening that Speaker Gillam thinks funding Pre-K is irresponsible but spending $1.5 million on the governor's mansion is worth sacrificing economic development in Northeast Arkansas. As Speaker of the House, Jeremy Gillam’s job is to serve the people of Arkansas, not be party to power grabs made by the governor.”
This is true, but it omits an important fact: Democratic Sen. David Burnett allowed himself to BE rolled on this issue. He gave the governor critical votes for his takeover of History and the Governor's Mansion Commission in return for approval of his own bill to waive earthquake standards to save money for Nucor. (Would Nucor have built the mill without the cost savings on less-safe construction standards? Nobody seemed very interested in that question.)

Also omitted is that this battle is over. The Senate-approved bill is on the House calendar this morning and it will pass through that Republican body like corn through a goose. There was a last gasp in the Senate: The companion bill from the House was defeated this morning, getting a 17-8 vote, needing 18. The vote was expunged, however, and, in its final action of the session, the Senate passed the bill, too. It takes effect immediately because it has an emergency clause.

PS: Channel 7, which has had great good fun over $56,000 or so in expenditures by Treasurer Dennis Milligan, ought to look at the Hutchinson operation of the mansion.
click to enlarge 'RAIN OF FAITH': First Lady wants new $250,000 installation for this stainless steel artwork.
  • 'RAIN OF FAITH': First Lady wants new $250,000 installation for this stainless steel artwork.

1) Spending of the Mansion allowance. 2) Sources of other spending beyond the Mansion allowance. 3) Spending of Governors Mansion Association Money. 4) The use of that $1.5 million referenced by Vince Insalaco. This was a $1.48 million grant sought from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council for improvements at the mansion, some needed (street lights); some for enhancement of family personal space (shades of Huckabee), and some for a $250,000 installation, with water feature, for a piece of $3,500 sculpture donated to the Mansion some years ago after a Tabriz auction at the Arkansas Arts Center.  Susan Hutchinson apparently took a shine to the sculpture, "Rain of Faith." The Council approved $1.1 million of the money sought. That council spends public money (it comes from the real estate transfer tax) and is a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, headed by Stacy Hurst, just made a voting member of the Governor's Mansion Commission and previously a player as an ex-officio member.

And speaking of Asa spending: I'm STILL being stonewalled on requests to his office for how much and from whom money was raised for his inaugural festivities and how that money was spent, including for furniture and other expenses in governor's office renovations. Help me out here, KATV.

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