Our View

Our View

A lot to accomplish in just a single legislative session

It sounds as if Gov. Asa Hutchinson seems confident Arkansas lawmakers will be pretty much in agreement with his proposed changes to the stateʼs version of Obamacare, as well as what he wants to do to raise more money to address the needs of the stateʼs highway department.

We say that in light of the fact Hutchinson prefers to call just a single special session this year rather than two to deal with these two major issues. But Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismange, R-Searcy, is saying it just might be too difficult to enact legislation for highway funding and also change the Medicaid program and private option in a single three-day special session.

We know a considerable amount of time and effort has been put into these two issues over the last several months by this administration including the formation of special task forces charged with coming up with recommendations.

But, with that said, and with politics involved, we are confident there will certainly be some political grandstanding and political posturing among some lawmakers seeking to gain notoriety, particularly among the more liberal bunch entrenched in the Democratic sides of the two chambers.

For instance, we know for a fact the ultra liberal of the bunch will certainly oppose Hutchinsonʼs idea of requiring the able bodied recipients of governmentʼs hand-outs to seek employment, and those who do have some income be required to pay a portion of their health care costs, which in our opinion should have been required all along.

We would also expect resistance from the liberal left to oppose the recommendation that anyone receiving government subsidies and own their homes valued at several hundreds of thousands of dollars that they too pay a portion of their subsidized coverage.

As weʼve made it vividly clear, Hutchinsonʼs intentions are to make the necessary changes and requirements that will cover the estimated $60 million annually it will require to pick up the stateʼs cost when the federal government pulls the financial plug in 2017. And, we must point out, it is the right thing to do.

Now then, the Governorʼs Working Group on Highway Funding has proposed a wide range of options to raise more month, including increasing the state taxes on motor fuel and shifting revenue from other parts of the stateʼs budget to the highway fund.

The goal of this group of task force is to come up with revenue sources that will generate an estimated $110 million in additional tax dollars annually over the next one to three years.

Where we expect to see the most resistance in this endeavor come from the entrenched bureaucrats in state government screaming foul that “robbing Peter to pay Paul” will jeopardize their jobs. We expect the bureaucrats entrenched in the stateʼs education system will say taking any money from their precious budgets will jeopardize their ability to provide an education to the children, and the civil servants in the Department of Human Services will say taking any portion of the billions of tax dollars they receive will prevent them from providing the necessary subsidies they hand out to the stateʼs poor, elderly and children.

Letʼs be perfectly honest about this and say weʼre sure there is enough “fat” built into these budgets that taking away some to address the governorʼs priority issues will have absolutely no negative impact on the services they provide.