Gov. Asa Hutchinson opened the legislature’s budget system with an endorsement of his record since his first joint session talk three years ago — a tax cut, strong employment and other positives. “The state of our state is stronger than ever before.”

He listed a number of specifics And he borrowed a page from presidential speeches singling out individuals aided by his efforts, such as the new state income tax break on military income to lure new Arkansas residents.


He pitched his work requirement for Medicaid “stringent” but not “punitive.” He said it is aimed at putting people to work. If the government approves, the results will be interesting. Many think most able-bodied people ARE working already,

Hutchinson said the budget session was straightforward. He said his budget meets the needs of education, cuts cost of Medicaid and increases public safety spending. He also said it reduces dependence on one-time money for ongoing expenses. He touted a projected surplus of $64 million. He predicted a reduction in Medicaid spending of more than $800 million in five years. He didn’t identify would jobs or services would pay for that savings.


For the future, Hutchinson said he wanted to reduce the income tax rate. He wants the top marginal rate cut from 6.9 to 6 percent. He says this should be done in 2019 session, helped by budgeting this year that saves money without reducing state services. Neat trick that.

The governor talked a lot about transforming government. But, from here, it looks about the same as always, if a little pinched here and there.


Dozens of appropriation bills were filed today. Rep. Bob Ballinger also filed a non-budget item. It would end a requirement that all firearms instructors be required to teach both the basic concealed carry course but also the new enhanced permit that allows holders to take guns more places, including college campuses. Some don’t want to teach the new permit. It will require a two-thirds vote of both houses to consider the measure.

Also filed today were proposals to cut off enrollment in the Arkansas Works program of expanded Medicaid coverage at its level as of July 1.

UPDATE: Also Democratic legislators Greg Leding and Will Bond propose to open up the gun law to make it clear that you can’t take guns, even with the advanced concealed carry permit, in college dorm rooms. Sen. Trent Garner vows to fight. From the gun nut’s Tweet:

It was our intent not to leave those who go through the training from being able to carry just because they step into a dorm. We will not take a step back

A Democratic proposal to make a common-sense change to a gun nut bill that requires a two-thirds vote? What’s the phrase? DOA?


EVEN MORE IMPORTANT: Friends of pharmacists file a measure to hamper the pharmacy benefit managers from holding down costs on prescriptions. I have people telling me that passage of this could kill the entire Medicaid expansion program. No idea if that’s true yet, but, if so, talk about babies and bathwater.