Gov. Hutchinson: Session 'successful,' but there are loose ends | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 3, 2017

Gov. Hutchinson: Session 'successful,' but there are loose ends

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge GOOD SESSION: So says the governor.
  • GOOD SESSION: So says the governor.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson pronounced the legislative session a success, even as he noted more work lies ahead on two major topics — highway construction and the Medicaid expansion on Obamacare. He said he had a smile on his face at the conclusion, particularly about bills that he saw as "pro-growth" and "pro-jobs."

But about those loose ends:

* HIGHWAYS: Hutchinson said it proved difficult to refer a highway bond issue to voters. The measure was defeated along with legislation that would have put the state sales tax on the wholesale price of fuel if voters approved the bond issue. He said a bond issue was still needed and he said he hoped supporters would look at attempting an initiated act, by petition, to put it before voters. Otherwise, the legislative debates will continue.

* MEDICAID: The governor said he expected a brief, focused special session several days after sine die adjournment May 1 to reinforce the waivers the state expects to ask from the Trump administration on operation of the Medicaid expansion program made possible by Obamacare. Congress has failed to repeal Obamacare, But Hutchinson said he expected to move ahead with "concentrating" the program at those at poverty level or below (it's now open to those earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level) and to "strengthen" work requirements. These ideas will throw tens of thousands off the program in Arkansas, almost certainly. But that should only help, not harm passage in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Hutchinson said he was disappointed by defeat of legislation aimed at collecting the sales tax on Internet sales.  He said it was a simple matter of fairness because the Internet merchants were taking business from downtown Arkansas merchants and revenue from the state. "This will be resolved in future," he said. "It's just a matter of time."

The governor was asked about the heavy execution schedule. He said he wasn't particularly concerned about damage to Arkansas from attention over the rush of executions. He said hundreds had been carried out in other states while Arkansas hadn't had an execution in 15 years. He acknowledged broad interest and said he'd likely have one more news conference to take questions on the subject. He said he wanted to be transparent, but he didn't want to "feed into" media interest. "I don't think it's appropriate or helpful."

He praised tax cuts and other inducements for business.

He bragged about reducing the soft drink tax passed by Jim Guy Tucker. He called it a "temporary tax." Tucker certainly didn't see it that way. He saw it as dedicated money for the Medicaid trust fund.

He said he was happy to avoid "North Carolina-type bathroom bills." He said it was not a problem in need of a solution and would have been harmful to the state.

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