As Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson prepares to move next month into his new office at the north end of the Capitol, Governor Mike Beebe is preparing to make his exit.
One of the Democrat's signature accomplishments was getting passage of the private option, an amended part of the federal health care law. KUAR's Jacob Kauffman sat down with the outdoing Governor to talk about how his management style helped cut the state’s uninsured rate in half.
BEEBE: I think if you try to pigeon hole me into a style, I think it’s inconsistent with the facts. I think I can be incremental and I think I can use the bully pulpit. I think what you’ve seen with what we’ve done with the private option is a great example of that bully pulpit. What the national press has missed, they give lip service to it, and to a large extent our local press and media has missed it the biggest story of the whole private option issue and that’s the three-fourths vote.
To get a three-fourths vote in the legislature in both Houses, you’ve to have it in each House in the legislature, is difficult for non-controversial issues much less controversial issues, as explosive as Obamacare, as the opposition refers to it. We couldn’t get three-fourths without the bully pulpit; we couldn’t get three-fourths without getting out there and convincing the world so that we could then convince some legislators. Then there are times when I don’t use the bully pulpit and the management style is such that we try to move us gradually to a certain position.
If you really want to know my management style, at least what I perceive to be my management style, is that I don’t micro manage anything except money. I do micro manage the budget. Absent that I believe you hire really good people, you tell them what your vision and your policy is and you let them do their job and if they don’t do it you fire them and go get somebody else.
KAUFFMAN: Ernie Dumas [an independent journalist covering the legislature since the 1960s] seems to think it only takes a majority to pass the private option. Surely you’ve thought about that.
BEEBE: Yeah well, you know I don’t think that’s worth the litigation necessary to figure that out. I mean, I’ve read what he’s said, I know what he says. I’ve seen folks that have suggested that the three-fourths requirement really doesn’t mean what the Constitution says it means. I don’t subscribe to that. I wish he was right, we wouldn’t even be arguing about half of this stuff if it was 51 percent.
KAUFFMAN: If you could name one or two of your proudest accomplishments, and this could include your tenure as a legislator, and something you wish you had pushed forward a little harder on?
BEEBE: One of the things I wish we would have done quicker and pushed forward, well two things. One, getting a handle on DIS [Department of Information Services] and some of the stuff that’s going on over there. We’ve started and hopefully the next Governor will be able to get a handle on it and try to ensure that we do a better job.
A corollary to that is the proliferation of broadband and other options available for our public schools. Those have now come to the forefront. We’ve started down that path of correcting it. I’ve made suggestions and said what I would do if I was still going to be here when the next legislature meets on this issue. If we had a little more time those would be on the top of the list going forward.
In terms of accomplishments there are so many things that I’m proud of that we’ve worked together on that it’d be hard to single one out, whether it’s the rise in our education rankings; sales tax reductions and eliminations that are on schedule; the private option; the payment reform – which is separate from the private option that does away with fee for service and sustains and stabilizes our ability to pay for healthcare; getting through the recession as one of four states…; the trauma system; the actual severance tax that’s more meaningful than the non-existent one that existed before.
All those things I’m happy about and proud of but I really have said all along when this question’s come up of late is I really do hope that what I’ve been able to do is be able to instill in a majority of our people, you’re never going to get a hundred percent of them, is this feeling that Arkansas is as good or better than anybody else; getting rid of that old Avis inferiority complex that Arkansans have exhibited for most of my lifetime.