Jun 11, 2016

Asa Hutchinson: Fighting for Arkansas, Not Politics

Update:  I received the following from Asa's office by way of Twitter:

 In reply to 
Thanks Clint. You lay out the facts fairly and with balance. Keep writing.

Asa, as he is known around Arkansas, took office in 2015 and in over a little over a year and a half has stirred supporters and opponents almost on equal grounds.   Recently a clash over the Arkansas Highways to raise money without raising taxes had Asa in the spotlight in a positive way for Arkansas.  However, there are other situations such as the Medicaid Expansion plan that has drawn fire from Republicans.  Finally, the same detractors from Asa's record tend to forget that he is setting the Arkansas education system years ahead of most other states with the coding program.

On social media there are tweets and posting saying things like "He's no Republican" and "I'll never vote for him again."  Most of the tweets are centered around Medicaid issues and Arkansas Works, but these people - expressing their free speech as they should be doing - are overlooking some key factors that Asa not only represents, but understands.

First, Asa has been in Washington serving before.  He knows how the government works and he understands how funding to the states works.  He understands that if the federal government supports a program within a state, then often matching federal dollars roll into that state.  The fact of the matter is the Affordable Healthcare Act is here to stay.  While we all would like to see it repealed, the best we can safely hope for is some future modification of the program.  There are no politicians in Washington going to fully support repealing a program that provides healthcare to millions of Americans because that equates to millions of "voters".  Politicians do not work that way no matter what they tell the people.  Asa and many other Arkansas legislators recognize that, at least for now, the Affordable Healthcare Act is here to stay in its current form.  States that have fought back against the federal government in this area have lost money and continue to lose money.  Those states, once they start losing federal tax dollars, then have to look at making Medicaid cuts within their own borders.  Those cuts affect the disabled, the elderly, nursing homes, state institutions, hospitals, clinics, group homes and if that doesn't have your attention enough, ultimately employees from physicians clear to direct care staff working in those settings.  The bottom line is Arkansas, like many other states, needs that federal money to keep programs going.  Asa knew that Washington would cut funds to Arkansas for failing to meet the requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Asa and others in Little Rock found a way to work with Medicaid expansion, help our people, and keep the state rolling without putting the tax payers out on the block.  People bashing Asa need to stop and remember those annual tax returns they complete - that money you send to Washington, often comes back to Arkansas where it's needed - Asa is just working to make sure we maximize that money.  Does this make him look Anti-Republican?  Sure, in many people's eyes it does - but as stated he is not simply working Arkansas to get votes, he is fighting to help Arkansas.

While the state argued over how to fix the roads, where to get the money, and what happens to the money once it is received, Asa put forth a plan that used excess money, did not raise any taxes, and guaranteed matching federal dollars to the state.   Republicans and Democrats alike should be hard pressed to find anything wrong with Asa's plan here, but once again he did it for the people of Arkansas and not for politics.  He could have sided with a modest tax raise that in all truthfulness would likely have been forgotten by the next election or he could have simply opted to do nothing.  Instead, Asa recognized that safe roads help bring industry, reduce accidents, and increase tourism opportunities for the state.  He focused on improving the state, protecting tax payers, and obtaining federal money to help the program.

Finally, early in Asa's term he pushed for high schools in Arkansas to have "coding" as part of the curriculum offered.  Coding means simply "Computer Coding" and it goes way beyond your desktop computer.  Coding is used in everything from your coffee maker, to your smart phone, to the security systems that control your home.  There is almost no industry today that is not affected in some way by coding.  This push by Asa propelled Arkansas far ahead of other states, and isn't it about time that Arkansas moves ahead?
The author with Asa (I'm the fat one on the right) :)