- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Incoming Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to call boosting Arkansas’ economy his top priority in an inaugural address, according to excerpts of his speech released Monday.

Hutchinson, a Republican, is set to be sworn in Tuesday morning as Arkansas’ 46th governor. The ex-congressman and former federal Homeland Security official is succeeding Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is leaving office due to term limits.

In the excerpts, Hutchinson cast his top campaign promises, including a push to cut middle class income taxes by $100 million a year, as ways to help Arkansas compete. He also cited his proposals to improve jobs training at the state’s two-year schools and expand computer science teaching in high schools.

“My top priority is to grow the economy of this state, to create jobs, and for Arkansas to enter a time of sustained economic power and influence,” Hutchinson said in remarks prepared for delivery.

Hutchinson’s November victory capped a GOP takeover of the top offices in a Southern state once considered a Democratic holdout. Republicans expanded their majorities in the House and Senate and swept all statewide offices. Hutchinson also planned to call for unity after a heated campaign season.

“Governing is not about which political party is in the majority,” he said in the excerpts. “Governing is about setting aside differences and searching for common ground. And as we search for common ground, we realize that our differences are smaller than we thought and our hearts are larger than we imagined.”

Hutchinson faces a potentially divisive fight over the future of the state’s “private option” Medicaid expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. The program was crafted as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the federal health law.


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