FAYETTEVILLE -- The day after announcing plans for the biggest reorganization of state government in almost half a century, Gov. Asa Hutchinson touted his plan before a crowd of about 130 people at a meeting of the Political Animals Club of Northwest Arkansas.
"The last time we had a comprehensive effort to reform state government was whenever then-Gov. Dale Bumpers in 1971 -- 47 years ago -- saw that he had 60 reports to him, and he asked the Legislature to reduce that down to 13 departments of government and passed that," Hutchinson told the crowd at Mermaids Restaurant. "And that reform since has been reversed so that we have grown from 13 up to 42."
President Donald Trump only has to deal with 15 Cabinet-level officials reporting to him, Hutchinson said.
The reduction in the number of departments and agencies that report to the governor will make for more efficient management and eliminate some duplication of services, therefore saving money, according to the governor.
The Republican governor announced Thursday that he plans to propose the Cabinet pruning in the 2019 regular session of the Legislature.
Hutchinson said it was good to get out of Little Rock and visit the part of the state where he grew up and went to law school. The governor said he wondered how well people know him in other parts of the state.
Hutchinson, who has been governor since January 2015, said he went to the Hogskin Holidays Parade at Hampton in south Arkansas after the legislative session ended last year.
A smiling woman walked up to him and said, "Can I give you a hug?"
The governor said, "Well, sure."
"I thought she wanted to congratulate me on the great job that I'm doing," he told the crowd. "So she gave me a hug and she stepped back and said, 'Now, just who are you?'"
On Friday, Hutchinson also touted his plan to cut the state's top income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 6 percent, which he said is projected to reduce state tax revenue by about $180 million a year.
In 2015 and 2017, the Legislature enacted his plans to cut individual income tax rates by about $150 million a year.
"The fact is that our 6.9 percent top marginal tax rate does not allow us to compete well with our surrounding states," Hutchinson said. "In this mobile society, capital investment can go anywhere. People can move. They're not locked into a geographic region anymore. They can move, and millennials do that. And so investment, people and businesses can go where it's a business-friendly environment; there are competitive tax structures, and people have choices. And so we want to move our tax structure into a more competitive area. And to do that, I have announced that I want to move our top marginal tax rate from 6.9 percent down to 6 percent."
Hutchinson said he also wants to make sure the "funding stream for higher education isn't drying up."
Funding for education is declining in Missouri and Louisiana, he said.
"I made a commitment from Day 1 that we're not going to decrease higher ed funding," Hutchinson said. "Even though we cut 1 percent across the board when I became governor, we didn't cut higher ed."
Instead, Hutchinson said his administration instituted a productivity funding model that rewards universities not just to have students in seats on the first day of class, but to move them through the educational process until they receive degrees or certificates.
"We want to reward progression and not just simply student enrollment," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson is a former U.S. attorney, 3rd District congressman, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Metro on 03/17/2018
Print Headline: Governor touts plan to cut back agencies