The Whispers Blog

Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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On MSNBC, Fox Business, Cotton and Hutchinson Talk Health Care Reform

Tom Cotton

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:

Here's the Wells Fargo Foreclosure Lawsuit on the Regions Bank Building

Regions Building, left, in downtown Little Rock

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. 

You can read the entire filing here.

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 …"

Video: Asa Hutchinson Talks Tax Cut, Marijuana, Trump

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and and his budget director, Duncan Baird, meet with reporters.

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. 

More: You can see DF&A's analysis on how it will implement the plan here.

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:

Fed's James Bullard: Only One Rate Hike Needed Now

James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, says one hike to a key interest rate is all that's needed right now.

Bullard's comments, delivered yesterday at the University of Arkansas, echo his previous statements on monetary policy.

Bullard's address focused on a single equation he said can "describe much of the state of the current monetary policy debate" and "how the St. Louis Fed’s new approach fits within this one-equation format."

"The bottom line," according to Bullard, is that "low interest rates are likely to continue to be the norm over the next two to three years."

Analysts widely expect the Fed to raise interest rates before the end of the year.

More: You read Bullard's complete speech, see his Powerpoint presentation and read the news release about his UA appearance right here.

Boone County Airport Board Selects Contour Airlines for EAS

Boone County Regional Airport in Harrison

The Boone County Airport Board has recommended that the Department of Transportation award Contour Airlines of Smyrna, Tennessee, the contract for its essential air service, the Harrison Daily Times reports.

The airport, along with two others in Arkansas, were left without service after the September bankruptcy of SeaPort Airlines.

According to the Times:

Contour was one of seven airlines that made proposals to replace SeaPort Airlines, which filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in September.

Contour plans to offer two round trips to Dallas and one to Memphis each day, although airport manager Judy McCutcheon said Monday that the exact schedule hasn’t been ironed out completely.

Airports in El Dorado and Hot Springs airports also participate in the federally subsidized essential air service program. The Hot Springs Board of Directors is scheduled to meet this afternoon to consider Boutique Air as its EAS provider.