Governor's transition underway, Hutchinson launches website
While the rest of the state learned that Asa Hutchinson was the next governor of Arkansas by watching the news last Tuesday, Hutchinson himself was learning it from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Hutchinson told the Associated General Contractors Thursday that, when the polls closed at 7:30 p.m., his friends had all gone out to dinner anticipating a long night, and in his hotel room his two-year-old granddaughter, Isabella, insisted on watching cartoons. He didn’t know the race had been called immediately after the polls closed until Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, called and said, “Congratulations, Governor.”
Hutchinson said he next received a phone call from President Obama and that he began working on the transition the day after the election. Along with naming Sen. Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, his chief of staff, he said today (Nov. 13) that Jon Gilmore, his campaign manager, will be deputy chief of staff.
Hutchinson said his team has created a new website, www.asaforarkansas.com, where Arkansans can view news about the transition or apply for jobs or appointments. Gov. Mike Beebe provided Hutchinson with transition reports from state agencies Wednesday.
Hutchinson, who is leaving Arkansas Friday to attend a meeting of the National Governors Association, told the group that he now will focus his attention on the state budget. Beebe has submitted budgets that do not include the middle class tax cut Hutchinson promised during his campaign. Hutchinson said he is committed to still passing it.
“It is important to me that I fulfill the things that I campaigned on,” he said.
During a press conference after his speech, Hutchinson expressed concern that Beebe’s budgets were using one-time money for Medicaid spending. He said he would like to focus more attention on controlling the program’s growth.
Hutchinson said his budget proposal will develop throughout the session and that he couldn’t give a timeframe as to when it will be released. He said he believed he could make the numbers work.
“I’m fully committed to funding education, funding our essential services of this state, and I have no doubt that we can do that consistent with having the middle class tax cuts that I campaigned on,” he told reporters.
Hutchinson told the contractors that he supports more funding for highways. He said he would bring highway supporters, economic developers, and higher education representatives together to discuss highway funding options.
He said he has made a commitment that he will not cut higher education funding – often one of the first state priorities to receives less money. With that kind of assurance, it might be easier to gain support from that community for a solution like one that was proposed during the 2013 legislative session that would have funded highways using sales tax revenues from automobile-related purchases.
“The main thing I want to communicate to you is, I understand the need,” he said. “I understand the need that we have to have better revenue streams for highway development in Arkansas.”
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