LITTLE ROCK — Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross took swipes at each other’s tax cut plans and political backgrounds Monday night as the two ex-congressmen running for Arkansas governor squared off in their fourth and final televised debate.
The rivals sparred over familiar issues in their fight for the state’s top office, in the debate at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. The two are running to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
As they have over the previous three debates, the two touted their competing tax cut plans. Hutchinson has proposed cutting individual income taxes by $100 million for the middle class, while Ross has said he wants to eventually cut taxes by $575 million as the budget allows.
Hutchinson accused Ross of being too vague with his plan and questioned whether he’d even pursue a tax cut during his first year in office.
“I have a specific plan. You owe it to the people of Arkansas to say what you will do in your first year,” Hutchinson said. “Are you going to have tax cuts or are you not going to have tax cuts?”
Ross said Hutchinson’s plan doesn’t help enough working Arkansans and said the Republican’s cuts would jeopardize state programs. He also touted his goal as accomplishing more than Hutchinson’s plan.
“It’s pretty clear who the real fiscal conservative is here, because Congressman Hutchinson has spent most of his campaign attacking me for wanting to cut taxes too much,” Ross said.
The two also targeted each other’s political backgrounds, while describing themselves as being able to work with members of both parties in the Legislature next year.
Ross said he has a history of standing up to his party on key issues, and accused his opponent of not having the same independent streak.
Video:Watch the complete debate via KAIT:
“Many people know me and they know I have a history of being bipartisan. My opponent has a record of being hyper-partisan,” Ross said.
Hutchinson said he was mischaracterizing his background in Washington and that he has a history of working with Democrats on issues such as campaign finance reform. He said would approach the Legislature with “conservative principles.”
“But sticking with those principles, you can work with your colleagues, your Democrats, your independents and say, ‘Where is the common ground we can find?'” Hutchinson said.
The Arkansas governor’s race is one of the most closely watched in the country, with Republicans hopeful they can claim the office after winning control of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction in the 2012 election.
The candidates’ debate was televised by Jonesboro television station KAIT. A live stream of the debate was monitored in Little Rock as it aired.
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