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Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks about special session, tax cuts, his future

Hutchinson at Rotary Club.JPG
Ronak Patel
Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke to the Rotary Club of Little Rock on Tuesday about his tenure leading the state and his future. He is term-limited and a new governor will be elected in November.

After spending last week in Europe as part of an economic development trip, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is back in Arkansas. On Tuesday, he spoke to the Rotary Club of Little Rock about his tenure as governor and said the trip was his latest effort to bring high paying jobs to the state.

Hutchinson said there are always opportunities to recruit foreign businesses, with this trip to meet with aerospace industry leaders at an airshow.

“Arkansas is actually in the top 10 for states that have created jobs tied to foreign investments. I am proud of that and over the past eight years, we’ve accelerated those investments and they’ve really created a lot of jobs here in the state,” he said.

Special legislative session

Hutchinson told the crowd that he wants to accelerate tax cuts during the August special session. In 2021, the governor signed into law tax cuts that would eventually bring the personal income tax to 4.9%. By 2026, the legislation will result in nearly $500 million in tax cuts, which is the largest in the state’s history.

The governor said the tax cuts will be a way to unleash the private sector.

“These tax cuts have come at a time when we wanted to be competitive with our surrounding states,” Hutchinson said. “Texas is growing. Tennessee is growing. We want to be competitive, so we lowered that rate consistently and carefully.”

According to the Tax Foundation, neither Texas or Tennessee have a personal income tax. There are seven states nationwide without a state income tax.

The tax cuts include lowering the corporate tax rate and a low-income tax credit.

Will Hutchinson run for president?

Hutchinson hasn’t formally announced whether he will run for president of the U.S. in 2024. He told the group he wants to make sure he can shape the Republican party and the country. Hutchinson noted that he formed America Strong and Free as an effort to spread ideas about “common sense conservatism” and share ideas of problem-solving leadership.

Senate Ethics Committee

While out of the country, Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR News he did pay attention to the Arkansas Senate, which voted last week to penalize Republican senators Alan Clark of Lonsdale and Mark Johnson of Ferndale for violating reimbursement laws. Hutchinson said it’s important for the legislature to be able to discipline its members.

“The exercise they went through was important. It was consistent with their rules, so it doesn’t have to be anything more than that, but it is an important step that they took,” Hutchinson said.

Primary elections 

During the interview, Hutchinson was also asked about his thoughts on a recent proposal by Republican leaders in Arkansas to limit primary voting to registered Republicans.

Delegates at a state party meeting last weekend in Little Rock voted to approve the proposal, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Hutchinson said he doesn’t have a position on the issue and understands arguments for open and closed primaries.

“I think our system has worked well in Arkansas. I think clearly the people have a voice either through their party organization or otherwise,” Hutchinson said.

It would take legislative action to adopt these changes, he said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Arkansas is one of 15 states to have open primaries.

“Critics argue that the open primary dilutes the parties’ ability to nominate. Supporters say this system gives voters maximal flexibility—allowing them to cross party lines—and maintains their privacy,” the NCSL said on its website.

The Democrat-Gazette reported the party's push to close primaries comes after speculation that Democrats voted in GOP primaries to help more moderate candidates win.

During primary elections in May, KUAR spoke with voters at the polls and one Democratic voter did mention crossing party lines to vote against Sarah Sanders, the Republican party nominee. She previously served as White House press secretary under former President Donald Trump.

“They [Democrats] aren’t going to win anyway, so you might as well vote for somebody who is going to have the best interests of all Arkansans in mind rather than someone who tries to stay along party lines,” Mary DeLoney Logan said after casting her ballot at Pleasant Valley Church.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for KUAR News focusing on state and local government.