As the Arkansas General Assembly gets ready to go back into session Monday, a lot of eyes will be focused on what happens at the Capitol. Arkansas State University’s System President Dr. Charles Welch says he will be looking at how state lawmakers will address the budget. One of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s legislative priorities is for a $50 million dollar income tax cut. Welch says some tax cuts can have a negative impact on the budget for higher education. He says the Governor’s idea for a tax cut is a good one, as long as lawmakers don’t make major changes or deeper cuts.
"We like the tax cut plan the Governor has proposed, especially since he has pledged $10 million in new funding for higher education," said Welch. "We just have to see if that changes once it goes through the General Assembly. We worry that too many cuts could have a negative impact on higher education."
Welch says he will be focusing on the proposed new funding model for higher education, which would reward colleges and universities on graduation rates, not enrollment. He says he is also concerned about a renewed push to get guns on college campuses.
"This is something that has been proposed before and we, as a system, will request those decisions be made on the local level instead of through the state."
Welch says Hutchinson’s increased STEM initiative in high schools is something that colleges and universities will continue to prepare for, as an expected influx of students in those emphasis areas will come to campuses very soon.
"The market has been demanding an increased focus on jobs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Certainly Governor Hutchinson's push has been a good thing and we expect to see increased enrollment in those areas for many years."
Hutchinson will be in Jonesboro Friday talking about his agenda and the legislative session. The ASU System office will also host a legislative reception Tuesday night in Little Rock.