The Whispers Blog
Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in Washington this week to attend the Donald Trump inauguration, appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" to talk about the appeal of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act and the incoming Trump administration's trade plans.
Yesterday, Hutchinson met with congressional leaders to talk Medicaid and Obamacare repeal. Bloomberg reports today that some Republican governors — even those eager for repeal — are telling their congressional delegation that doing so without a replacement "would ravage budgets and swamp hospitals with the uninsured."
Hutchinson says Arkansas, which took Medicaid expansion dollars under the reform program, is ready. "Congress should repeal the ACA and return the power of regulating insurance to the states," Hutchinson wrote in a letter to the House majority leader, according to Bloomberg.
He echoed those comments on CNBC today, and said Arkansas is ready to move quickly — as quickly as 90 days — into a new federal partnership for health insurance.
"We ought to have a federal partnership to make sure there is a smooth transition into a system that assures care [but] at the same time is affordable and gives the states the flexibility as needed," he said.
But another part of the Trump agenda concerns the governor: trade. The Trump administration has floated the idea of raising taxes on imports as they push for fair trade. Hutchinson said that could pose problems for agriculture and retail — two industries near and dear to Arkansas.
"I understand the need to rebuild manufacturing in the United States, to have a tougher trade policy, but we cannot jeopardize our place in the global marketplace," the Arkansas governor told "Squawk Box."
Not only would an effective tariff raise costs on goods coming into the country, but those costs would trickle down to consumers, who would see prices rise on the shelves of big retailers like Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, which import most of their products, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said he is also concerned about the backlash it would invite from the United States' global trading partners.
"In a state like Arkansas, not only do we have Wal-Mart, ... but also we have agriculture, and if you have other countries retaliating against the United States, it's going to cost us in our agricultural exports, and that retaliation is something we'd be very concerned about," he said.
You can see Hutchinson's comments on health care and trade in the clip below:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to address a joint session of the state Legislature at 10:30 a.m., and he's expected to call for lawmakers to approve his proposed $50 million tax cut for low income Arkansans.
You can watch the speech live below.
The 91st General Assembly convened Monday, with legislators facing a host of issues, including the reauthorization of the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion program, Arkansas Works; implementation of Arkansas' medical marijuana law; and whether to cut taxes.
Republicans have expanded their majority in both legislative chambers since last year's fiscal session. The GOP has 76 seats in the 100-member House; they have 26 seats in the 35-member Senate.
On Monday, House members re-elected Jeremy Gillam as speaker, and Jonathan Dismang will be Senate president for a second year.
Asa Hutchinson's Speech to the Joint Legislative Session
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today to talk about Donald Trump's continued skepticism about U.S. intelligence reports that attribute the hacking of Democratic party emails to the Russians.
But Cotton also touched on Republicans' plans to repeal the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Cotton was asked what he'd say to those on Obamacare who might be concerned about losing their health insurance.
"We don't want anyone to lose their coverage," Cotton said, and, in short, he cited Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion as a possible model for how the GOP could replace the current system.
Here's what he said in full:
Well, we don't want anyone to lose their coverage. When we replace Obamacare, we want to fix the problems that Obamacare made worse from the pre-existing system. Now Arkansas has something of a unique system under Obamacare — our state government didn't just expand Medicaid like most states; it used that money to help people buy private insurance. That may be something we look at when we replace Obamacare. Whether it's a tax deduction or a tax credit, we provide every American with the ability to go out and find affordable health insurance to fit their needs, not the needs that are dictated by politicians in Washington.
Health care was also the topic of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appearance yesterday on Neil Cavuto's Fox Business program.
Hutchinson's comments came amid reports that the president would meet today with Democratic leaders to find ways of preserving elements of Obamacare under the new presidential administration.
Hutchinson's message to the president: Stop trying to preserve a plan that must be scrapped. He also said states want more control of their health care programs and cited block grants as key to whatever new system the GOP devises.
Here's the governor's full comments:
President Obama needs to simply not make any additional foreign policy announcements, not make any additional executive orders, let the new administration initiate their policies the people of America elected them to do. And so, when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, there's nothing more President Obama can or should do — enough damage has been done.
From a state's perspective, we simply want more control. We want to be able to have broader block grants to manage the Medicaid program, to create the savings, the work incentives. You give us that authority, we'll manage it well, make sure people have health care, but also as something we can afford. I'm looking forward to a Trump administration that will, with Congress, repeal the Affordable Care Act and will move us in a different direction.
Hutchinson was also asked how long he thought a repeal could take. "From a state perspective, I think you can make a transition within two years," he said. "It looks to me like the first thing you do is give the states more broad authority. We need that in Arkansas."
You can watch both segments below:
Tom Cotton on MSNBC today:
Asa Hutchinson on Fox Business Tuesday:
Wells Fargo Bank N.A. has filed a foreclosure lawsuit on the Regions Bank building at 400 W. Capitol Ave. in Little Rock, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported today.
Wells Fargo's lawsuit targets 37 limited liability corporations with ownership stakes in the 30-story 600,000-SF building. The lawsuit alleges default on the $32 million loan associated with the purchase of the building in August 2006.
The full purchase price of the building, as reported in 2006 by Arkansas Business, was $37.2 million.
According to Arkansas Business news partner THV 11 News, the lawsuit says that:
As of November 7, the balance of the loan was $29,612,459.95, which includes $1,202,411.71 in late fees, $508,742.12 in interest, and $223,782.12 in default interest.
Starting November 8, the interest began accruing at a rate of $5,191.25 per day, and the the default interest began accruing at a rate of $3,340.03 a day.
Wells Fargo has also requested that all rent payments collected past Sept. 1 be returned.
The lawsuit also says that Wells Fargo has sent several notices of default, all of which were ignored. The bank is requesting the court appoint a receiver, LNR Partners LLC of Florida, "to protect, possess, control, manage, and operate the Property …"
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday spent some time with reporters reacting to Tuesday’s election results, talking through elements of his $50 million tax plan and outlining the implementation of Issue 3, the medical marijuana act.
First, Hutchinson said he's asking lawmakers to approve spending $3 million from the state rainy day fund to jumpstart the process of getting the marijuana measure in place. Finance officials say the state Department of Finance & Administration will receive $525,000 and the state Department of Health will receive about $2.5 million.
Even though he campaigned against it, Hutchinson said the people of Arkansas voted for medical marijuana, and he plans to implement it accordingly.
Hutchinson also said he was surprised by Donald Trump's win — he'd suspected FBI Director James Comey's Sunday statement about Clinton's emails had given the Democrat fresh momentum.
And he said that the new administration could give states like Arkansas more latitude in implementing health care reforms under the "Arkansas Works" program. He said that, under a new Trump administration, Arkansas could go back to the federal government and seek waivers it had been previously unable to get from the Obama administration.
The governor also said he would not be interested in joining the Trump administration. Earlier in the day, the Wall Street Journal reported that the governor was on the Trump team's short lift for attorney general.
You can watch Hutchinson's complete news conference here:
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