- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday said he was calling lawmakers back to the Capitol later this month to consider incentives aimed at luring a defense contract to the state that he says could create nearly 600 new jobs.

The Republican governor announced he was calling a special session starting May 26 to consider issuing “super-project” economic development bonds to help Lockheed Martin at its Camden facility. The Maryland-based company is competing for a contract to manufacture a new joint light tactical vehicle for the Army and the Marines to replace the Humvee.

“This is what we call a contingent liability I’m asking them to approve,” Hutchinson told members of the Political Animals Club. “We need to approve this (economic development) project so that Lockheed Martin’s bid can be considered in a competitive environment.”

Hutchinson said he would ask the Legislature to approve issuing bonds under a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2004 to attract larger employers. The amendment was first used two years ago when lawmakers approved $125 million in financing for a steel mill under construction in east Arkansas.

Hutchinson said he would have more details later on the amount of bonds he’ll ask the Legislature to approve.



If Lockheed gets the contract, Hutchinson said, it would mark the first time Arkansas would have a vehicle assembly plant.

Lockheed Martin confirmed it planned to conduct final assembly of the vehicles at the Camden facility.

“Should Lockheed Martin win the JLTV contract, the financial benefits to the state could be substantial,” the company said in a statement. “There have been some discussions about potential economic incentives, but there is nothing to announce or discuss at this time.”

Hutchinson said he also was considering including other items on the session’s agenda, including a renewed push to move the state’s presidential primary from May to March next year and an effort to reorganize some state agencies.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam said he believed there would be support in the Legislature for financing the super-project.

“I think once the membership is able to see all of the information that we have, I feel like they’re going to be as excited as we are about the project,” Gillam, R-Judsonia, told reporters after Hutchinson’s speech.

This will be the first special session Hutchinson has called since taking office in January. Lawmakers last month formally adjourned an 82-day session where they approved Hutchinson’s $102 million tax cut proposal and renewed the state’s compromise Medicaid expansion.

Hutchinson already has said another special session is likely later this year to take up the recommendations of a task force looking at alternatives for covering the more than 200,000 people on the state’s “private option” Medicaid expansion. The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene in February for an abbreviated session focused primarily on the state’s budget.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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