He weighed in on everything from job creation, to plans for veterans, to minimum wage, to the Lieutenant Governor position. Watch the video for the full interview or read below to see what Hutchinson had to say.
Marissa Kargas: You've said you will be the jobs governor. What is your plan to create, keep and bring more jobs here to Arkansas?
Asa Hutchinson: You get up and work every day at it, because it's competitive with our other surrounding governors who are also competing for jobs. But we need to be more competitive in our tax structure. I want to lower the state income tax rate, starting with the middle income folks. Secondly, we need to have career education emphasis as well as college preparatory. Part of that is my emphasis to have computer science in every high school in Arkansas. Great job opportunity for us. So there's a number of things that we outline in my Asa plan, which are six point for job creation for the future.
Marissa Kargas: Back in June, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Mike Ross announced his Jobs First initiative. He said he plans to strengthen public education, improve workforce training and cut taxes to help boost Arkansas' economy. Once Ross announced his jobs plan, you'd stated that he wasn't sure what his priority was, You'd mentioned he was first focused on education and then shifted to jobs. Do you still feel that way?
Asa Hutchinson: Well, I'm the jobs governor. That's what I want to be because everything, if you want to improve education, we can pay our teachers more if we have a growing economy, a greater tax base. If you want to build better highways in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley. We increase our tax base, you increase jobs and infrastructure comes along with it. So, everything hinges upon a growing economy in this state. We've been growing at a slower pace.Yes, it starts with job creation and economic growth. We improve education, absolutely a critical link there. I think it's really time that we emphasize the job creation. Whenever we look at Superior Industries, great company here, they lost employees very recently, it impacted a lot of people, so you've always got to be creating new jobs to keep up with the diverse economy and the changes that we see.
Marissa Kargas: Both you and Ross have a plan specifically to help veterans. Why do you feel that's an important focus?
Asa Hutchinson: We have 250,000 veterans in Arkansas who served our country tremendously and the income tax relief that I provide will help our veterans. Secondly, for example, in-state tuition. We have returning veterans to Arkansas who are from here but lost their residency serving our country. Let's give them in-state tuition when they come back and want to go to college. We're giving Texans in-state tuition, let's give those to our returning veterans as well. So those are some of the plans that I have for our veterans.
Marissa Kargas: Speaking of jobs, minimum wage is something a lot of Arkansans are talking about. Mike Ross wants to see the issue of raising the minimum wage go to voters. Now, you're in favor of an increase as well, but you want to see it happen through the legislature rather than a ballot initiative. Why is that?
Asa Hutchinson: Well, we need to raise the minimum wage. We historically do that periodically. The legislature is the one that's most responsible. I will lead that effort to do that and do it in a responsible way so we're not hurting our small businesses and actually losing jobs in the meantime. We need to raise to at least the level of the federal minimum wage and the reason it's important that the legislature do it, because then you can change it by simple majority down the road. The people might do it by the ballot initiative, that's fine, but if not, the legislature need to address it.
Marissa Kargas: Switching gears a little bit, the Lieutenant Governor's office is still sitting empty and there's been some debate over whether having a Lieutenant Governor is even necessary. Arkansans help fund the $400,000 budget for that position. Do you think that's money well spent? Do you think that position needs to be filled?
Asa Hutchinson: Well, my view is that we have a Lieutenant Governor under our Constitution. Until that change, we want to make sure that the Lieutenant Governor has responsibility, meaningful roles. I would want to work closely with the Lieutenant Governor to make sure that the taxpayers are getting their money's worth but also, it's important as a line of succession. But, there are some things that they could be helpful as part of the team. So, if there's a Lieutenant Governor, we're going to use them every day.