The transition to Republican control of the both the state legislature and every constitutional office is now complete. Asa Hutchinson took the oath of office to officially become Arkansas’s governor Tuesday and addressed onlookers at the Capitol.
Asa Hutchinson was welcomed into the House chamber with nearly two minutes of applause then sworn-in by Chief Justice Jim Hannah as the state’s 46th governor
HANNAH: Repeat after me, I “W” Asa Hutchinson.
HUTCHINSON: I “W” Asa Hutchinson.
HANNAH: Do solemnly swear.
HUTCHINSON: Do solemnly swear.
HANNAH: That I will support the Constitution of the United States.
HUTCHINSON: That I will support the Constitution of the United States.
But before officially taking the reins of power at the Capitol, Hutchinson started his inaugural day joined by his political and religious brethren at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.
“We began this day with a prayer service, which is a custom in Arkansas, but I cannot tell you how much it meant to me. In that prayer service I had three of my former pastors participate in that service. I needed three because it takes three pastors to keep me on the right path,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson remained in high spirits throughout his address to lawmakers. Members crowded onto the House floor to hear his remarks. The governor drew on a familiar campaign promise, to create economic growth driven primarily by a promise for a $100 million tax cut.
“First of all in my judgment the first order of business for the state of Arkansas is economic growth and job creation,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said improvement in services, and less reliance on them, will be built on what he predicts will be an economic boon as a result of tax cuts, workforce training, and less regulation.
“We all want to improve education, we all want to build more highways, we all want to improve our criminal justice system, we all want to improve pre-K opportunities. But to do all that we need to do in this state we have to grow our economy and we grow our economy, we will be able to do more in every category. That is our top priority,” said Hutchinson.
The policy news of the day came from Hutchinson’s promise to deliver his budget by the end of the month, and he announced the date of January 22nd as the time when he will reveal his position on the state’s alternative to Medicaid expansion, the private option.
After addressing those on the inside of the Capitol, Hutchinson took to the Capitol steps to address an ever larger crowd, waiting on a chilly early afternoon. He offered a new vision, in an era of unprecedented Republican control in state government.
“It is truly a new day in Arkansas, an historic day, a day that many of us thought would never happen in our lifetimes. And yes, we have Republican majorities and this new day requires a new look, a new look at how government works, how we create jobs, how we partner with faith-based and non-profit organizations, and how we adapt in every walk of life to changing technology,” said Hutchinson.
As for where Democrats fit in this new era, Hutchinson hit on promises to govern without being bound by partisan politics. State Representative Warwick Sabin of Little Rock appreciated Hutchinson’s tone.
“I was pleased that the Governor offered the opportunity for anybody willing to work constructively with him to achieve those goals,” said Sabin. He also indicated a willingness to support Hutchinson’s signature promise for middle class tax cuts, “I’m generally supportive of the approach of offering tax cuts to the middle class and to lower income individuals as Governor Hutchinson has proposed.".
However, Sabin cautioned that with tax cuts comes the risk of depleting the state’s revenue, which could result in cuts to state services.
“We all want to see how that tax cut looks in the context of the overall state budget, which thankfully the Governor has promised to do. He said in his speech today that he would have his budget to us by the end of the month and that will allow us to look at that tax cut in that greater context of overall state services. Then we can make a determination of whether or not it’s smart state policy,” said Sabin.
Hutchinson finished the evening at the Statehouse Convention Center, at the Governor’s Inaugural Ball. Taxes, the state’s health plan for over 200-thousand lower income residents, and legislation on a range of cultural and social issues await the new Governor in the weeks ahead.