Speaker-elect Davy Carter on the New Political Landscape in Arkansas

Davy Carter, who represents House District 43, including Cabot, will begin his third term when the 89th General Assembly convenes on Jan. 14. In December, he was elected to become the first Republican Speaker of the House since Reconstruction.

During the 88th General Assembly, Carter, a banker and lawyer, chaired the House Revenue & Taxation Committee and was a member of the House City, County & Local Affairs Committee; the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee; and the House Rules Committee.

Carter is a graduate of Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law, and the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to be speaker and why?

A: I ran for speaker because I felt it was the right thing to do, and I was the right person to do it at this time. I appreciate the confidence the members of the House have placed in me, and I will do my level best to lead with the best interest of the citizens of Arkansas in mind.

What do you make of the fact that, apparently, only a handful of House Republicans voted for you?

Quite honestly, while this was discussed immediately after the election, there hasn’t been much said about it since. We had a great week of orientation with freshmen as well as second- and third-term members coming to Little Rock to participate in the process. The Republican Party has the opportunity to lead for the first time in some 140 years, and we are all aware of that responsibility. I have complete faith that the Republican caucus will work as a cohesive unit to pass conservative legislation.

You’ve made some bipartisan gestures in your hiring of Democratic staff members. What’s your strategy for working with Democrats?

It is important to note that both staff positions you reference are nonpartisan, and if either of them start acting in a partisan manner favoring either party, we will have to re-evaluate. My goal is simple: to effectively and professionally get the work done for the people of Arkansas. And I’d put this House staff up to that task any day. Gabe Holmstrom [the new House chief of staff] is a longtime trusted friend of mine, and it was important to me to have someone in that position that I could trust. As far as working across party lines, I am just going to work hard and be the person I have always been.

What are your top three goals for the session?

It’s hard to narrow down to just three. I have said many times that state government is mostly about managing money. To that end, the budget is always top priority for me. This session, Medicaid will be a driver of a lot of what we do because of the tremendous amount of money involved.

You’ve voiced support for tax cuts. What tax cuts — or reforms — will be your top priority?

Budget reform is one of the key areas I have been focused on since I was elected to the House, and we are looking at a plan that would increase accountability throughout the fiscal year. Regarding tax cuts, the first step is to determine how much can responsibly be reduced from state revenue. Once we determine that figure, the membership will set forth various targeted cuts for debate. Personally, I think we need to take a hard look at the current structure of our personal income tax brackets.

How should the Legislature address the state Supreme Court ruling regarding property taxes and public schools?

The situation is still very fluid, and I am still doing a lot of listening. I can say that we are prepared to take legislative action after the dust settles if necessary.

What are the key points that legislators will consider on the possible Medicaid expansion?

Money. Money. And money.