- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he’d prefer taking up the state’s hybrid Medicaid expansion and highway funding in one special session, but hasn’t ruled out calling lawmakers back to the Capitol to address the issues separately.

Hutchinson said he’s meeting with U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Feb. 1 about his proposals to overhaul and rename the hybrid expansion. He also said he plans to unveil his proposals for increasing state funding for highways on Jan. 19.

Hutchinson said he hasn’t decided when to call lawmakers back to the Capitol to address both issues.

“It would make a lot of sense if you had one special session to include all of the issues that are on the table at that point and I would expect that to be the result,” the Republican said during a news conference in his office. “But I would want to keep my options open in the event that the legislative leadership reached a difference conclusion.”

Hutchinson told the federal government this week he wants to keep the “private option,” which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor, but wants to add new restrictions and rename it “Arkansas Works.” The program was crafted in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Hutchinson has proposed requiring participants to be referred to workforce training, charging premiums for some and putting a limit on assets such as houses for those on the program.

“I do not want to have a continued Medicaid expansion without the emphasis on work, opportunity to work, moving up the economic ladder, increased personal responsibility and program integrity,” he said.

Hutchinson also said he’s looking at all of the options presented by a task force he formed on highway funding, which last year offered him a range of options that included tax hikes and diverting some general revenue to roads. Hutchinson said any tax increases would need to be offset by tax cuts elsewhere.


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