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Arkansas Democrats speak out against new governor's policies

Josie Lenora
Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, hosts a press conference alongside House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, at the Arkansas State Capitol Wednesday.

The Democratic Party of Arkansas held a press conference Wednesday to respond to Republican policy proposals espoused by the governor and legislature. House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, was joined by Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, in the former Supreme Court chamber in the Arkansas State Capitol.

Both railed against policies supported by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in particular those pertaining to education. Sanders has said she wants to be thought of as the “education governor,” and supports school choice policies and voucher programs as well as raising minimum teacher pay.

McCullough and Leding say they support teachers and raising their salaries, but not other more conservative education policies supported by Sanders. McCullough said the governor contradicted herself in the two different speeches she gave at her inauguration Tuesday.

“She mentioned reforms to the foster care and adoption system and pre-K expansion,” McCullough explained, “then she left those out of her public address on the Capitol steps.”

She also spoke against Sanders’ plan to phase out the state income tax.

“So far I haven't heard a plan of where we are going to replace those funds,” she said. “Plus, it doesn't always seem like it's done in a fair manner. Often people who make a lot more money are the ones who get the bigger breaks, while people who are really struggling get a pittance at times.”

Republican lawmakers have a supermajority in both the House and Senate, meaning their policies in the current general assembly are likely to be successful.

Leding told KUAR the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in the legislature concerns him, but said his party has been able to make small gains in past sessions.

“I don't think the one-sided government is ever good.” he said. "I am concerned about the numbers, because you don't necessarily have that check on some of the more extreme ideas.”

Both McCullough and Leding spoke against an executive order signed by the governor on Tuesday banning Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio.