Share Button

montesquieuDuring this public comment period on Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Arkansas Works/Private Option/AsaWorks Medicaid expansion plan, it is good to reflect on the bill and its passage back in April.

Specifically, coming out of Garland County, participants at the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce’s “One Voice Summit” voiced these conclusions about AsaWorks — but then were all but ignored by other attendees, as well as the moderator:

Back in early May at a meeting of the Garland County Republican Committee, state Senator Alan Clark described the passage of AsaWorks this way:

I am no longer on the governor’s PR team. I have begged him not to go forward with the plan, and if he did go forward the tactics he would have to use to pass it would be bad. This is an example of top-down government, and I oppose top-down government whether it is President Obama or Governor Hutchinson.

…I think the worst thing we did was subvert the Constitution. Until the last month or so, I have said favorable things about Governor Hutchinson. When Governor Hutchinson was inaugurated, he raised his right hand and took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the State of Arkansas. If he wants to change the Constitution he should lead in changing it. Otherwise, we should follow it.

We as Republicans became angry when President Obama said he had a phone and a pen. We have been angry every time he has deliberately sidestepped the Constitution. We should be just as angry when the Hutchinson Administration does the same thing.

The governor talks about a tyranny of the minority because the Constitution requires a 75% majority of both chambers to pass a budget. The governor is right in that we do have a duty to govern. That is why I offered to sit down with his office and work around the clock to find a constitutional solution, to find a solution that I very well might not be able to support, but that would have the necessary votes to pass the budget.

You may be aware that I also held a press conference and offered a compromise in that I would vote for the budget as much as my district and I detest Medicaid Expansion. The main two things we asked for were a waiver so that we did not have to fund the morning-after pill. Because again, the Arkansas Constitution prohibits the State of Arkansas from funding abortion. And secondly, to stop the corporate welfare to insurance companies by instead placing the Medicaid Expansion population on regular Medicaid fee-for-service rather than private insurance.

The line item veto was never designed to be used the way Governor Hutchinson used it. It is upside-down and deliberately subverts the purpose of the Constitution. Here is what I want each of you to ask the governor. If the constitutional requirement to have the votes of 75% of each legislative chamber to pass spending is a tyranny of the minority, how does he feel about the 75% majority requirement to raise taxes? If 26% of the legislature block a tax increase, is that also wrong in that it would be a tyranny of the minority?

The Democrats have always used the tactic of slandering the opposition who oppose spending by sending out mass communications to every group from county judges and quorum courts to schools and to every welfare program that exists, saying that the opponents to spending want to cut their programs. I and others warned the governor and his office for months that those were the only tactics I could see that could possibly pass this bill and that to use those tactics would be a mistake both because it is slandering your friends and, more importantly, because it isn’t true.

Governor Hutchinson has tried to disassociate himself from the tactics used, but Governor Hutchinson sent the message into my district that I was going to cut off all welfare funding. That was not true. The blind and disabled now cannot get in to see doctors because of the Medicaid Expansion people in front of them. Also, Arkansas Works has no true work component.

…since being in the legislature I have learned that big business runs Arkansas. The budget we were given by the Hutchinson Administration was a faux budget for six months instead of a year, and it had Medicaid Expansion taken out of it to mislead. The budget was deceptive and the way they acted was deceptive.

I don’t think Governor Hutchinson knew everything that was being done, but he is the governor, so in the end he is responsible. We will all work together with the governor, but we’re also going to try to bring him over to government closer to the people.

The Governor talks of a “tyranny of the minority” but the unconstitutional tactics employed to pass the bill wouldn’t have been needed if a 75% majority had been in favor of AsaWorks. Are we ready to throw out the Arkansas Constitution’s 75% threshold for funding bills? Who’s in the minority here?

And, although we would hope that Senator Clark is successful in his efforts to “bring him over to government closer to the people,” Governor Hutchinson’s past behavior does predict a very consistent outcome — in the exact opposite direction.

h/t Clay Hermann, Hot Springs