LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson gave his last State of the State Address to the general session of the Arkansas legislature Tuesday, talking about issues ranging from education initiatives to his effort to pass hate crimes legislation.
You can download the transcript below:
Hutchinson opened his address by reminding senators and legislators exactly where the state is at in this moment, 11 months since the coronavirus pandemic began in the country.
The governor condemned the actions of those who rioted at the U.S. Capitol last week, saying that they attacked the foundation of our governmental principals.
“We saw a mob attack the heart of our democracy and they must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the governor said. “It’s ok to be passionate, but passion must not cloud our common sense. When the election is over, we must come together.”
Hutchinson then told legislators that he expects them to meet the challenge of the moment and to give healthcare workers the tools to defeat the coronavirus. He praised their role in response to the pandemic, saying that it is the state’s first responsibility to act on the healthcare emergency.
“I expect you all to vote on funding for vaccine implementation,” Hutchison said. “We need health department infrastructure, we need more testing, and help for public schools.”
The governor reminded everyone that the current emergency rules are still in place until February 11 and he is hoping that legislators will extend that when the time comes.
He then spoke of how law enforcement must have the highest standards, tools, and funding, while also increasing accountability and oversight.
Hutchinson said another priority is rewarding our teachers who are out there every day educating young minds. The state has also raised teacher pay and has become a leader in computer science education.
“I support another round of increased pay for teachers,” he pledged. “I want to raise it by $2,000 over the next two years. Because of our measured approach and private sector growth, we’ve been able to fully fund K through 12, and higher education.”
On the fiscal side of his message, he pointed out that the state has have moved $800 million from the government’s checkbook directly to Arkansans in need.
The state has also invested $86.8 million in the Rural Connect grant program and equalized online sales in the same way as they have small businesses, which he called the lifeblood of our communities.
The governor also said that the state has an unallocated fund of over $200 million, which has beat forecast by over $300 million.
Hutchinson also addressed Hate Crimes legislation by reading letters that he has received.
“The main objection I hear is that it gives more protections to certain groups,” he said. “This law will apply equally if you’re Hispanic, Caucasian, African-American, it applies equally no matter what.”
He said that polls currently show that Arkansans support the passage of this type of legislation.
Applause was heard from a good portion of the legislators as he announced that the state is the number one pro-life state in the nation.
The governor also asked for reducing the sales tax on used cars from $4,000 to $10,000, while also asking new residence to pay a 4.9 percent tax rate, pointing out that Arkansas ranked 10th in states that people are moving to.
Hutchinson ended his address by reaching out to the lawmakers to always know that he is present when they want to reach out and share ideas, saying “My door is open to you.”
Arkansas Democrats respond to Gov. Hutchinson’s State of the State Address
On Tuesday afternoon, the chairman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas responded to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s State of the State Address.
Michael John Gray says he appreciates Governor Hutchinson and his leadership.
Gray says he’s seen Republican governors across the nation that have done worse than the governor has in the seven years he has served.
“Not doing worse shouldn’t be our bar,” Gray said. “We are better. We can do better, and we should be better.”
Gray said while he and the Democratic Party of Arkansas support tax cuts and higher teacher pay, the governor stopped too short.
When speaking on police reform, Gray said accountability and equality in treatment should also be a priority.
Gray said superintendents have had to cut their budgets and teachers with higher levels of education or more experience are seeing their jobs fade away. The Democratic Party chairman said the state has to adequately fund schools.
On the subject of computer science, Gray said there are still school districts across the state where the only vocational opportunities are “sewing buttons and building picnic tables”.
Gray said the governor should create opportunities where the children of Arkansas aren’t “one flat tire or broken transmission away from dropping out of college”.
Gray said on broadband access, the goal shouldn’t just be access but affordable access.
When it came to the emergency declaration, Gray said Governor Hutchinson did not mention to stay diligent.
Gray said the governor failed to mention the “Stand Your Ground” bill.
You can see Gray’s entire response in the video above.
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