I’ve been following Roby Brock’s Twitter coverage of appearances by the gubernatorial candidates, Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross before the Delta Grassroots Caucus.
* PRIVATE OPTION MEDICAID EXPANSION: Hutchinson says the legislature will do the “right thing.” He didn’t say specifically what that means. Continue the program? Junk the program? He suggests it needs improvements. But what? He did express concern that some charity operations have gone out of business because the poor people they serve now have insurance. This is bad?
Mike Ross said that “as a Christian” he thinks the private option is the right thing to do. He’d have signed it. He’ll protect it.
One wiggles. The other leads.
* MINIMUM WAGE: Hutchinson said he doesn’t want it changed by the voters. He thinks the legislature should deal with it. I don’t know how you interpret that except a a big, fat NO to the ballot initiative now being circulated for an increase over time to $8.50 an hour. He thinks the legislature should deal with it. How? He has offered no specifics. He says he’d raise the wage by some amount, but who knows. The legislature might want to LOWER it. Or eliminate it entirely.
Mike Ross supports the minimum wage increase proposal.
One wiggles. The other leads.
* PRE-K: Hutchinson doesn’t like Mike Ross’ pre-K plan, though of course he likes the idea of early education. Mike Ross thinks we can’t afford not to move aggressively. If Oklahoma can, we can, he says.
One wiggles. the other leads. Actually Hutchinson does worse than wiggle, he trashes Mike Ross’ pre-K plan as a welfare program by expanding pre-K “free” to some families. He forgets his Republican pal Justin Harris who makes a living getting state money to provide pre-K at his Christidan daycare. Ross said:
“My plan will make quality pre-kindergarten education accessible to every 4-year-old in Arkansas in a fiscally responsible way so that no child is ever on a waiting list for pre-k in Arkansas. Congressman Hutchinson and his campaign have called increasing access to pre-k ‘silly’ and that it’s the ‘wrong direction’ for Arkansas to take. It’s just another example of how out-of-touch and disconnected Congressman Hutchinson is from working families in Arkansas.”
Ross noted that Hutchinson had a congressional history of opposiing early childhood education, despite the benefits of reaching kids early.
* COMMON CORE: They both dance around this one. Both invoke local input. Both know Walton dollars pushing this bigtime. Both know it’s become a cause celebre among the wingnuts.
* LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIPS: Neither favors taking general revenue to shore up the rapidly declining lottery scholarships (already diminished so much that college tuition since the lottery was established may outstrip the awards).
Both are decisive on this and right so far as it goes. But state support of college education as a percentage of cost keeps declining. Students are bearing the burden. The economic reality is that this works against an increase in college completion rates.
* HIGHWAYS: Ross wiggles on general revenues for highways (both sides should be heard) and the dollars-follow-cars argument (balance is needed; rural areas can’t be forgotten.) Asa said dollars should follow cars. If so, it’s going to be hard to build that long-desired interstate down the west side of Arkansas through all those miles of forest.
Bottom line: Mike Ross flatly supports private option and minimum wage increase. Asa Hutchinson doesn’t. That’s big . Maybe decisive one way or the other.