Hutchinson, Ross Spar Over Minimum Wage, Health Care Overhaul in Debate

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Friday, Jul. 11, 2014 1:41 pm  

Asa Hutchinson, left, and Mike Ross.

HOT SPRINGS — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson tried to portray one another as out of touch with Arkansas voters as they clashed over the minimum wage, health care and other issues at a debate Friday.

The two ex-congressmen primarily focused on each other as they squared off in a four-man debate hosted by the Arkansas Press Association at the group's convention.

"He's totally disconnected from working families in Arkansas," Ross said about Hutchinson.

Hutchinson later said: "I've been a consistent conservative. Mr. Ross has been a conflicted conservative."

Ross criticized Hutchinson for not supporting a ballot measure to gradually raise Arkansas' minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Supporters of the proposed initiated act submitted petitions Monday to the secretary of state's office to try and put the proposal before voters in November.

"He does not trust the voters to decide whether or not the minimum wage in Arkansas should be increased," Ross said.

Hutchinson said he believed the minimum wage should be raised to at least the federal level of $7.25 an hour, but said it's an issue that should be decided by the Legislature since amending the initiated act would require a two-thirds vote.

"It's just good government and responsible government if you raise the minimum wage through the Legislature," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson accused Ross of being inconsistent on health care, criticizing him for supporting a version the federal health overhaul in a House committee. Ross voted against the overhaul that was signed into law and voted for its repeal in Congress.

Ross then accused Hutchinson of misrepresenting his record, saying he was one of three Democrats who voted to repeal the act.

The debate also featured Libertarian nominee Frank Gilbert, who proposed issuing pardons to all non-violent drug offenders, and Green Party nominee Joshua Drake, who said he backs legalizing gay marriage.

Candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general also debated at the convention.

 

 

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