Gov. Hutchinson Talks Tax Cuts, Higher Education In State Of State Address
LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivered his State of the State address Tuesday (Jan. 10) before the 91st General Assembly that was sworn in the day before.
Hutchinson told lawmakers 2017 will be a year of historic opportunities for the state and the people of Arkansas. He also spoke of the changes facing the world including technology, terrorism, global markets and the low-level of confidence in government institutions.
Despite this, Hutchinson told the crowd it is an exciting time to be an Arkansan and the state of the state is exceptional.
He listed population growth when other states are watching residents move away, an economy that grew faster than three-fourths of the other states, a reduction in food stamp benefit recipients and an increase in tourist visits. He also spoke of the $100 million in middle-class tax cuts and getting Arkansas to top in the nation in computer science education.
Hutchinson then turned toward the future and the goals he has set for the state by asking legislators to help make them a reality.
One of the goals he listed is improving the efficiency of state government, which includes eliminating unnecessary boards and commissions.
Another was improving the way the state funds higher education. Hutchinson has proposed changing the way dollars are distributed to universities and colleges from appropriating funds based on enrollment numbers to the performance of students. He also proposed funding two-year college or technical school programs for students who pursue high-need jobs and degrees.
Hutchinson has also proposed $50 million in tax cuts for Arkansans making below $21,000. In his address, he asked lawmakers to pass the measure. The governor also said he wants to end taxation of retirement income for military personnel and create a task force to come up with a more comprehensive tax reform package.
The governor brought up the state’s foster care system, which is currently in crisis, and expressed the need for more funding to improve it. Hutchinson also asked that money be put into making the disability waiting list shorter and to expand mental illness resources with mental health stabilization centers and crisis intervention training.