Hutchinson Starts 2nd Term With Calls for Tax Cuts, Smaller Government

Hutchinson Starts 2nd Term With Calls for Tax Cuts, Smaller Government
Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivers his "State of the State" address to members of the Arkansas House and Senate. (Arkansas Governor's Office via YouTube)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday took the oath of office for a second term as Arkansas' 46th governor, and in a speech to the Legislature touted his accomplishments and repeated his goals to cut taxes, raise starting teacher salaries and reorganize state government.

The Republican governor took the oath of office before a joint session of the House and Senate, and he delivered his inaugural address on the Capitol steps at noon. The Legislature convened on Monday for this year's legislative session.

Hutchinson was first elected in 2014 and won re-election in November, defeating Democratic challenger Jared Henderson.

In his "State of the State" address to the Legislature, Hutchinson recalled the accomplishments of his first four years in office, citing a lower state unemployment rate, fewer people in poverty, fewer people on Medicaid and progress to reform the state's child welfare system and criminal justice system.

More: Read the transcript of the governor's "State of the State" speech.

He also touted improvements to the state's scholarship lottery, putting broadband internet in every Arkansas school, lowering taxes and attracting and growing industry.

"What we do in these chambers and in public service makes a difference in the lives of people," Hutchinson said.

Looking ahead, Hutchinson reiterated his goals for the new legislative session, including cutting the state individual income tax rate to below 6 percent, which he said will make Arkansas more competitive with other nearby states. One plan considered by a state tax reform task force would cut state revenue by $47.4 million in its first year. Combined with other cuts, including another reduction in the state grocery tax, state revenue would decline by $158 million in the first year, he said. 

Hutchinson said that, despite previous tax cuts, Arkansas has been able to grow and invest in education, public safety and expanded Medicaid, and has socked away $125 million in reserve. He said he wants to position Arkansas for growth, and his budget will allow for that.

Hutchinson also called for the creation of a new private sector technology innovation council to generate new energy and support for leaders and software, cybersecurity, blockchain and other technologies.

During his inaugural address on the Capitol steps, Hutchinson the state's leaders have a chance to lead by example by working together at a time when the nation is polarized.

More: Read the transcript of the governor's inaugural address.

The governor said that too often division has prevented officials at the national level from getting things done.

Video of the 'State of the State' Address

Video of the Inaugural Address

Arkansas Democrats also laid out their plans for the legislative session in a speech Tuesday. You can see video below.

Democratic Party's Legislative Plans

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)