Governor says commitment to principles fulfilled
According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Republican Party in Arkansas has fulfilled its commitment to principles of "limited government" and "individual responsibility," along with pro-life principles and support of the Second Amendment, since achieving "historic majorities" in state government.
"For the first time in history, we elected a Republican governor and Republican majority Legislature, and of course, you can add onto that our great constitutional officers that are represented in this room, who control all of those offices," said Hutchinson, the guest speaker at the White County Republicans' annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday night. "But the natural question that we all ask ourselves is, 'Well, we won, we accomplished the objective that we've had for decade and decades and decades and that many people have really literally died for, and so how have we done with this governing as a Republican Party?"
Those who attended the Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the White County Republican Committee and White County Republican Women at Harding University included Congressman French Hill, Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, Arkansas Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam, state Rep. Les Eaves and state Sen. Ronald Caldwell.
"When it comes to limited government, we have reduced the number of state employees by over 1,000 since I became governor," Hutchinson said. "That is good management, that it is a hiring freeze, that is limiting government.
"Whenever you look at the individual responsibility, the first thing we did was ”¦ basically we put in work requirements for those that are on SNAP benefits. What that means is if you're able-bodied and you don't have any children at home and you're on food stamps, then there's an expectation that you're either working or you're in worker training to work, and if you can't do those, you need to be volunteering for a community organization and give them your time.
"People in Arkansas want to work and they want to contribute, and we want to help them do that."
As far as pro-life principles go, Hutchinson said the Legislature has "passed more legislation than virtually any other state protecting the rights of the unborn and the life of the unborn."
He added that legislators also have expanded and protected Second Amendment rights in each session.
"And so, we are governing based on the principles of our party," he said. However, "the most important thing we can do for the integrity and for the faithfulness of those in public service and restoring the trust of those who believe in government" is keeping their promises.
"We promised that we were going to lower our state income tax by $100 million, and we gave them the largest income tax cut in the history of this state on the principles that you grow the economy by putting money in individual's pockets to spend, and they can spend it in a downtown store, they can buy clothes with it, they can buy a new set of tires, and it grows our economy -- that's what a tax cut will do," Hutchinson said. "We followed it two years later with another round of cuts, a $50 million cut for the lower income that did exactly the same thing."
According to Hutchinson, this was done "in a responsible way" through savings created by reducing employees in state government, creating more efficiencies in state government and by growing the economy.
"I said we're going to have computer coding in every high school in Arkansas, and guess what? We did it," he continued. "Not only did we do it in an effective way that made a difference in lives with kids and young people in our schools and enhanced their future, but we did it in such a way that we've been recognized nationally as leading the computer science education all across the United States. Code.org, Wire Magazine, all recognized that Arkansas is paving the way in this initiative.
"This has the opportunity to change the economy of Arkansas when we start graduating those that have the ability to work in this new technology environment."
Hutchinson also promised he would create jobs and focus on job creation. Today, Arkansas is at an all-time low in unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, the lowest in state recorded history, he said.
"We created over 59,000 jobs -- not we in government -- we set the climate for it so that individuals could take risks, invest and create jobs, and that is what happened," he said. "This happens by reducing regulations, showcasing our quality of life and marketing the state, not just in Arkansas, but across the United States, and across the globe."
But there is one more thing government must do, Hutchinson said: "You govern according to principles, you fulfill your promises and then you've also got to address problems you don't anticipate coming your direction."
"When we recognized there was a challenge in Arkansas in the foster care programs, the responsibility of our state to the children of our state in very unfortunate circumstances," he said. "We put more money in there, we put more people in there, we put more training in there, we reformed the system and we partnered with the private sector, those faith-based organizations. We said, 'Churches, we need your help in the foster care program of this state to do a better job for our children.' And churches and the faith-based organizations responded."
His administration also looked to the challenges faced by inmates re-entering society, Hutchinson said.
"Not every person who leaves prison is going to go back, not everyone who leaves prison wants to go back," he said. "Some want to get jobs. They want to lead a clean life and get restored to their families, and so we've set up re-entry programs to actually help those people coming out of prison, addressing a problem in our state."
In May, Hutchinson announced his intention to run for re-election in 2018, and he re-iterated this intention to those gathered Friday night.
"We're going to look at the future to continue to improve education, to expand job opportunity in this state, to transform state government to be more efficient in the delivery of our services," he said.
"Look to 2018 as a very important year for our nation. It's not going to be easy, so engage, support our candidates and make sure you don't take anything for granted in 2018."