Gov. Mike Beebe on His Fiscal Forecast for '15, What He'll Say to His Successor

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Gov. Mike Beebe (Photo by Russ Powell)

The federal minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour, which is about $15,000 annually. Arkansas’ minimum wage is lower, $6.25 an hour. Do you support raising either the federal or state minimum wage? If so, what should it be?

This issue came up during the 2011 legislative session. I said then that while we want as many of our citizens as possible to earn a good wage for the work they do, our economic recovery was too fragile at that time to adjust the minimum wage. While our economy is stronger now, I won’t be in office to re-examine the issue when the next opportunity to do so arrives in 2015. It will be up to the next administration and General Assembly to assess our economic standing and go from there. The voters may have a say first if the currently proposed initiative makes the 2014 ballot. I do believe the proposed incremental approach is wiser than trying to make one bulk adjustment.

What are the top two or three economic development projects that the state has landed during your administration of which you’re proudest?

I don’t want to name two or three specific projects, because there are many to be proud of, and I don’t want to appear to play any favorites. I will say, however, that I am very proud of how well we’ve been able to attract both manufacturing and technology jobs during the past seven years. Manufacturing jobs are increasingly coming back to the United States, and Arkansas is proving to be a good destination for them. Technology jobs are a major driver of the national economy, and we are both attracting and creating businesses centered on scientific advances.

You’re a pretty popular Democrat, as elected officials and Democrats go. And you’ve stated that you don’t plan to seek another public office once your term as governor is complete, at the end of next year. However, a couple of popular Democrats — James Lee Witt and Pat Hays — have come out of retirement to run for office. Might you also reconsider?

Thank you, but I have no intention of holding public office again after leaving here in January of 2015. Being governor is the best job I’ve ever had, and I don’t plan to run for any other elected position.

We often ask business and political leaders to detail their biggest career mistake. It’s hard for some — few people want to reveal “weakness” — but it’s also revealing. Most of us learn much more from our mistakes than our successes. What was your biggest career mistake?

It’s hard for me to pick a biggest mistake without the perspective of history, just as it would be hard for me to pick a biggest accomplishment without that same perspective. I’ve made plenty of mistakes during my 30-plus years in office, and only time will tell if one stands above the others. In general, I think the biggest mistake you can make is repeating missteps you’ve made before.

On the day that gubernatorial power passes into your successor’s hands, whoever that might be, what words of advice will you whisper to him or her?

I won’t need to whisper it, because it’s not a secret: Surround yourself with good, thoughtful, competent people. Whether it’s your office staff or your agency directors, you need to be confident that these people can do their jobs well and will speak up when they respectfully disagree with you. I’ve always had a sign in my office that says, “I don’t have stress, but I am a carrier.” While being governor brings a lot of stress with the job, having the right people around you makes it easier to handle, and many times, even fun. It’s another reason why this is the best job I’ve ever had.



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