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Sarah Huckabee Sanders sworn in as 47th Governor of Arkansas

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Arkansas Legislature
Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to a joint session of the Arkansas Legislature shortly after being sworn into office Tuesday.

Lawmakers and guests erupted in cheers Tuesday as former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was sworn in as Governor of Arkansas.

Sanders took the oath of office alongside her family and several dignitaries, including the state’s two U.S. Senators and former Govs. David Pryor, Asa Hutchinson, and Mike Huckabee, Sanders’ father.

Speaking to a joint session of the Arkansas Legislature following her swearing-in ceremony, Sanders struck an optimistic tone heading into her first term in office.

“The people of Arkansas, in their vast wisdom, have entrusted a new generation to lead. This is our moment. This is our opportunity, and you and I are the leaders who our people have chosen to get the job done,” Sanders said.

Sanders called her election victory a “turning point” in the state’s history, as she becomes the first woman voted into Arkansas’ highest office. At 40, she becomes the youngest governor in the country, and the only child of a former governor elected to the post in Arkansas.

With the 2023 general session of the Arkansas Legislature underway, Sanders called on lawmakers to send her bills in line with some of her campaign promises, including slashing taxes.

“Let’s not surrender the competition for jobs to other states. Let’s cut taxes and bring jobs right here to Arkansas. Let’s also cut wasteful spending, so we can continue to phase out the state income tax altogether,” Sanders said.

Sanders also called for legislation aimed at improving adoption and foster care, ensuring the right to own firearms, and raise the minimum teacher pay. She also mentioned her desire to increase school choice programs and expand prison capacity as two of her biggest goals for her time in office.

Sanders’ goals for education drew perhaps the biggest reaction drawn from lawmakers in Tuesday’s speech.

“Parents cannot be an afterthought in education. Parents are the foundation of a child’s success. So let’s give parents a greater role in education, including the right to choose the school that’s best for their child, whether it is public, private or parochial,” Sanders said.

Sanders also vowed to veto “without hesitation or remorse” any legislation sent to her desk that “grows our government at the expense of freedom.”

The Democratic Party of Arkansas applauded Sanders' commitment to raise teacher pay in a statement, but called her inauguration "bittersweet."

"The message we heard from Gov. Sanders today was not one of unity or celebration, but rather dividing our state further. It is not “bigger,” “bolder,” or “better” to divert public tax dollars into private or religious schools or to invest more in prisons than in our people," the statement reads.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.