Mike Beebe Expresses Optimism On 2013 Arkansas Session

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 12:00 am  

The governor’s legislative priorities include action on Medicaid, education, preservation of the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund and elimination of most of the sales tax on groceries. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Last Regular Session

The 89th General Assembly will be Beebe’s last regular legislative session. Asked what he’s proudest of having achieved since becoming governor in 2007, Beebe responded with a tally that included the state’s improved performance in a number of education rankings, particularly K-12; Arkansas’ maintenance of a balanced budget in the face of a nationwide economic downturn; an improvement in per-capita income; and the slashing of the sales tax on groceries from 6 percent to 1.5 percent.

So what is the proper role of government in Arkansans’ lives?

“You don’t have enough ink,” Beebe said, laughing. But he then obliged, saying good government is all about setting priorities.

If the “No. 1 priority of the federal government is to protect us from all enemies foreign and domestic, so too is the No. 1 priority of state government the education of our people,” he said. But “education without jobs is pretty hollow.”

Ultimately, the cornerstones of what state government should seek to accomplish are educating its citizens to ensure they can find good jobs, Beebe said. If those goals are met, other issues — public safety, emergency management, a social safety net for children, the old, the disabled — are easier to address.

“People start saying they want smaller government … but you do that in a responsible way that doesn’t throw people out of nursing homes, that doesn’t close your human development centers, that doesn’t put 60 or 50 or 40 youngsters in a classroom, that doesn’t totally neglect colleges and universities and drive them out of business or drive them to the point that tuition is so high nobody can go. You do that in a sensible fashion.”

Beebe has a long political history in Arkansas. Asked what keeps him from growing cynical, he said, “Part of it is the nature of my personality. I always see the glass as half-full, not half-empty. I look for the best in people, and more often than not I’m rewarded because more people are good than bad.

“I’m not naïve about it. We’ve got some folks that don’t fall into that category. But fortunately, in my experience, they’ve been in the minority. And there are little bitty anecdotal things that occur from time to time that keep you from being cynical.”

He relayed the following:

A young woman waited in the freezing cold one night outside of an event that Beebe was speaking at in Arkadelphia. She’d waited for an hour and driven 45 or 50 miles just to thank him on behalf of her husband who was working and couldn’t get off work. Her husband wanted the governor to know that he was grateful for a pardon Beebe had granted that gave the man a second chance at a good life.

“And she waited out there with tears in her eyes for an hour in that freezing weather just to say thank you. Those are the kinds of little things, the kind of one-at-a-time victories that make you thankful for what you’re doing and keep you from being cynical.”



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