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Arkansas Week February 7, 2014

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(2/10) It's just around the corner now, so what's around the corner? (Staff) What's to do for four employees of an empty office? (Rates) A tax program from one presumptive nominee, scorned by the other… (Receipts) …and how much room will there be for either approach?

TRANSCRIPT

HELLO AGAIN, EVERYONE, THANKS VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US FOR "ARKANSAS WEEK". THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY SITS MONDAY FOR ITS FISCAL SESSION. ONE ISSUE, NATURALLY DOMINATES. WE BEGIN THE BROADCAST TONIGHT WITH A NEWS MAKER INTERVIEW. WE'LL GO TO OUR PANEL IN JUST A MOMENT. THE SPEAKER, THE HONORABLE DAVY CONNOR OF CABOT JOINS US. MR. SPEAKER, THANKS VERY MUCH FOR BEING HERE.

THANK YOU.

IT BOILS DOWN TO THE NUMBERS. YOU NEED 75, YOU GOT WHAT, 77 TWO YEARS -- THE LAST YEAR. WHERE DOES IT STAND MAO?

STEVE, I THINK WE'VE GOT THE VOTES IN THE HOUSE TO MOVE FORWARD. THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF ATTENTION IN THE SENATE AND IT'S I THINK THE CLOSER MARGIN IS THERE. UNTIL WE GET TO THE CAPITAL, UNTIL WE RING THE BELL, UNTIL WE GO THROUGH THE BUDGET AND THE COMMITTEE PROCESS AND HAVE TO CAST VOTES, YOU KNOW, YOU READ THINGS AND YOU HEAR THINGS, BUT I DON'T PUT A LOT OF STOCK INTO THAT. I STILL CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THAT WE WILL MOVE FORWARD WITH IT AND BECAUSE IT JUST MAKES SENSE TO DO SO. AND NOTHING'S CHANGED MATERIALLY FROM ANY OF THE ASSUMPTIONS THAT WERE MADE THAT WE WENT INTO THIS. SO, I DON'T SEE ANY REASON OR REAL JUSTIFICATION TO PULL UP ON THIS DEAL RIGHT NOW OTHER THAN POLITICS, WHICH I HOPE POLITICS DON'T TRUMP THE POLICY. SO, I'M PRETTY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT IT.

HOST: WELL, IT IS THE LEGISLATURE AND POLITICS ARE IN PLAY. IT IS AN EVEN/ODD YEAR AND THERE ARE SOME SIGNIFICANCES. BUT SOME OF YOUR MEMBERS ARE, PARTICULARLY IN YOUR CAUCUS, BUT SOME DEMOCRATS AS WELL MAY BE RECONSIDERING.

NOBODY EVER SAID THISES WAS PERFECT. YOU LOOK AT -- THIS IS THE MOST DIVISIVE ISSUE THAT THE COUNTRY HAS DEALT WITH POLITICALLY, CERTAINLY IN MY POLITICAL LIFETIME. AND IT HAS -- YOU'LL GET PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN RUNNING ON THIS ISSUE, BUT NOBODY AT THE STATE CAPITAL -- SAY NOBODY. IF WE COULD ABOLISH IT IN LITTLE ROCK, THE AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE ACT, I THINK WE'D GET 90 VOTES IN THE HOUSE AND 30 IN THE SENATE. NOBODY LIKES IT IN LARGE PART. BUT THAT'S WHEN THE TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT DIVERGE. DO YOU STICK YOUR FLAG IN THE GROUND OR DO YOU TRY TO ADDRESS IT AND FIX IT AND DO WHAT'S BEST FOR THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS? AND WE SAW THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE MEMBERS, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS HOTLY DEBATED, MADE THAT DECISION LAST SESSION AND I STILL THINK THAT WE'LL DO IT THIS FISCAL SESSION. IT'S JUST TOO IMPORTANT. WE'VE GOT $90 MILLION COMING OUT OF THE BUDGET. WE'VE GOT A $30 MILLION TAX AND PENALTIES ARE GOING TO START BEING LEVIED ON BUSINESSES HERE IN 2015. YOU'VE GOT REAL ISSUES WITH THE HOSPITALS. I MEAN, THEY ARE TREATING PEOPLE AND -- FOR FREE. SAY THAT FOR FREE. WE ALL END UP PAYING FOR IT, BUT THERE'S UNCOMPENSATED CARE AMOUNT. SO, I JUST THINK ALL OF THESE THINGS, YOU PUT IT ALL TOGETHER AND YOU ANALYZE IT, IT JUST MAKES SENSE AND I THINK WE'LL GET THE VOTES. I'M CERTAINLY ADVOCATING FOR IT AGAIN, AND I THINK WE'LL GET THERE.

HOST: WELL, THERE'S SUGGESTION THAT THERE MAY BE SOME TINKERING AROUND THE EDGES OR ONE OF THE -- I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY ONE OF THE ARCH OPPONENTS OF THE PRIVATE OPTION, THE GENTLEMAN, MR. BELL, IN YOUR CAUCUS ACKNOWLEDGES WE CAN'T JUST LEAVE 100,000, WHATEVER ENROLLEES DANGLING OR ABOLISH IT.

RIGHT.

HOST: ON THIS NETWORK THURSDAY EVENING SEEMED TO SUGGEST AN ALTERNATIVE IS BEING PREPARED. COULD YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT THAT? AND WOULD THAT BE ACCEPTABLE? IS THAT EVEN FEASIBLE AT THIS POINT IN A FISCAL SESSION?

I DON'T KNOW WHAT REPRESENTATIVE BELL'S SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS MAY BE, BUT, YOU KNOW, I WOULD CONTEND THAT THAT'S, OVER TIME, THAT THE STATE CAPITAL, THE PEOPLE THAT ARE THE MOST CLOSE TO THE CITIZENS OF ARKANSAS, THEIR STATE REPS, THEIR STATE SENATORS SHOULD BE THE ONES THAT ROLL THEIR SLEEVES UP AND FIX THIS AND ADDRESS IT. I SAY FIX IT, JUST ANALYZE IT. EVERY GENERAL SESSION, IF WE NEED TO MAKE CHANGES ALONG THE WAY, THEN THAT'S WHERE IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN, NOT WASHINGTON, D.C. SO, AGAIN, THIS IS -- WE'RE DEALING WITH AN ISSUE THAT HAS -- HEALTH CARE IS BUILT ON ITSELF FOR DECADES AND DECADES AND DECADES. SO, TO CHANGE THAT SYSTEM WAS PRETTY AMBITIOUS FROM THE CONGRESS AND FOR THE PRESIDENT, BUT IT'S NOT GOING TO BE EASY TO DO. THAT'S ONE THING I'VE BEEN TRYING TO GO AROUND THE STATE AND TELL THE CITIZENS THAT, YOU KNOW, THIS IS -- NO MATTER WHAT WE DO, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SOME VOLATILITY IN THIS MARKET AND BECAUSE OF THE THINGS GOING ON IT'S NOT GOING TO BE SMOOTH. WE HAVE TO SET THE EXPECTATIONS, WE HAVE TO WORK THROUGH IT TOGETHER, BUT IF WE HAVE TO WORK THROUGH IT TOGETHER THINKING ABOUT WHAT'S BEST FOR THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS, NOT ABOUT A PRIMARY ELECTION OR GETTING POLITICS IN THE WAY T' JUST TOO IMPORTANT. WE CAN'T PULL UP. WE TOLD OUR CITIZENS WE'RE GOING TO DO THIS. WE CAN'T PULL UP, WE HAVE TO GIVE IT A FAIR CHANCE TO WORK.

PUBLIC COMMENT ~ POLITICS GETTING IN THE WAY, BOTH PARTIES HAVE OPPOSITION OR IT'S IMMINENT.

WELL, I THINK AGAIN, NOBODY LIKES AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE ACT. I'M A DEMOCRAT -- THIS HAS BEEN A TERRIBLE THING FOR DEMOCRAT FRIENDS. REPUBLICAN FRIENDS DON'T WANT TO TOUCH THIS EITHER. I DON'T WANT TO TOUCH IT EITHER, BUT WE DID. THE EASY THING TO DO WOULD HAVE BEEN TO JUST SAY, OH, NO, WE'RE NOT DEALING WITH THIS. ANYBODY COULD HAVE DONE THAT. BUT TO GET A 77 MEMBERS IN THE HOUSE, 28 -- 27 MEMBERS IN THE SENATE LAST TIME IN THAT POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT TO COME TOGETHER TO ADDRESS IT AND TO TRY TO DO SOMETHING THAT'S GOOD FOR THE STATE, WE WOULD HAVE NEVER GOTTEN THAT KIND OF SUPPORT HAD IT NOT MADE SENSE. IT'S JUST TOO MUCH OF A HOT BUTTON ISSUE. THE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ARE SMART PEOPLE AND WE WOULD HAVE NEVER GOTTEN THAT MUCH SUPPORT HAD THERE NOT BEEN A REASONABLE SOLUTION TO THE ISSUE AT HAPPENED. ~ HAND. WE WOULD HAVE NEVER MADE IT THAT FAR. IT MAKES SENSE TO DO WHAT WE DID AND THAT'S WHY WE'RE GOING TO KEEP MOVING FORWARD. I TRULY BELIEVE THAT, WE WILL GET OUT OF THIS SESSION, WE WILL MOVE FORWARD, WE WILL FUND IT. WE MAY MAKE A TWEAK HERE OR TWO AT A REASONABLE REQUEST AND COME BACK IN THE GENERAL SESSION NEXT YEAR, KEEP DOING IT, KEEP MAKING THE CHANGES. SO, THAT'S -- I DON'T KNOW, THAT'S WHERE I THINK WE ARE.

HOST: AT THE END OF THIS SESSION, THOUGH, YOU'RE SUGGESTING THAT THE AFFORDABLE -- AS IMPLEMENTED IN ARKANSAS, PRIVATE PLACEMENT WILL BE THE SAME, MAYBE SOME TWEAKS AROUND THE EDGES?

YES.

HOST: IT WILL BE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME AS ENACTED?

YES. WE ARE DEALING WITH BUDGET. THIS IS BUDGET. SO, TO GET IN, DEBATE, THE LAW IS THE LAW. WE PASSED THE LAW. BUT DEALING WITH SOME OF THE MONEY SPENT, ALLOCATED, I THINK THOSE WILL BE THE TYPE DISCUSSIONS REALLY THAT WE'RE ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE HAVING THERE. AND -- BUT AND AGAIN, STEVE, I GO BACK, NOTHING'S CHANGED MATERIALLY SINCE WE PASSED THE LAW -- IT HASN'T BEEN THAT LONG AGO. WE HAVE TO GIVE THIS A FAIR CHANCE TO WORK. STOPPING IT NOW AFTER ALL -- PEOPLE IN ARKANSAS MADE LIFE-CHANGING DECISIONS, RELYING ON WHAT WE TOLD THEM WE WERE GOING TO DO AND THEN TO NOT GIVE IT A FAIR CHANCE, I JUST -- WE'RE NOT GOING TO DO THAT. THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE. SO, THE REAL CHANGESES GOING ALONG WILL HAVE TO BE MADE IN MY OPINION IN THE GENERAL SESSIONS BEGINNING NEXT YEAR.

HOST: ON ANOTHER ISSUE, THE HOUSE IS BEING ASKED BY COMMITTEE TO CHANGE THE FUND-RAISING RULES, CAMPAIGN FUND-RAISING RULES DURING THE SESSION. DOES THAT HAVE YOUR SUPPORT?

NOT REALLY. SOME OF THE MEMBERS CAME TO ME A FEW WEEKS AGO AND, YOU KNOW, THE HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE MET AND I TOLD THEM, LOOK, I'M GOING TO STAY OUT OF THIS. THIS IS A HOUSE RULE. HOUSE RULES THAT AFFECT THE MEMBERS, AND IF THE MEMBERS SUPPORT IT, THEN I'M NOT GOING TO GET IN THE WAY. I'M NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR IT. I DON'T THINK THERE'S TWO-THIRDS MEMBERS THAT SUPPORT IT. AND IT ONLY AFFECTS A HAND FULL OF PEOPLE. I WOULD PREFER WE NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH THAT ISSUE, BUT IF THE MEMBERSHIP SUPPORTS IT -- WE HAVE 67 MEMBERS THAT WANT TO DO IT, THEN WE'LL CHANGE IT. BUT I'M NOT GOING TO GET OUT AND BEAT THE DRUM EITHER WAY.

HOST: WELL, YOU ARE ON THE NORTHSIDE OF THE CAPITAL, YOUR COLLEAGUES ON THE SOUTHSIDE IN REFERENCE TO THE EMPLOYEE -- EXCUSE ME, AND KIND OF DANGLING EMPLOYEES, WHICH THE PRO TEM HAS DECIDED TO KIND OF ADOPT. BETWEEN THAT AND THE FUND-RAISING ISSUE, YOU'RE TERM LIMITED. IS YOUR PARTY RUNNING A RISK OF KIND OF SEEDING THE HIGH GROUND HERE? NOT THAT DIFFICULTIES CAN'T BE BI-PARTISAN, WHICH THEY ARE.

RIGHT. THOSE TWO ISSUES ARE IMPORTANT. BUT IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS, THEY'RE NOT REALLY. I MEAN, I LOOK AT -- I JUST LOOK AT WHAT WE'VE DONE OVER THE -- THIS LAST TWO YEARS. WE'VE ADDRESSED THE HEALTH CARE ISSUE. WE'RE LEADING THE COUNTRY. WE HAD A VERY NICE TAX RELIEF PACKAGE THAT WAS BROAD BASED LAST SESSION. WE SUPPORTED THE LARGEST STEEL MILL PROJECT IN THE COUNTRY THAT'S GOING ON AND WE'RE LOOKING AT A STATE SPENDING THIS YEAR REQUEST FOR LESS THAN 2%. SO, WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE STATE AND THE THINGS THAT WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO DO UP THERE, THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT MATTER. THESE OTHER THINGS, YOU KNOW, THOSE WILL BE DEALT WITH AND THEY WILL BE SOON BE FORGOTTEN.

HOST: SIR, SOME PEOPLE WOULD BE A BIT SURPRISED I THINK TO HEAR YOU DESCRIBE, MY TERM NOT YOURS, CAMPAIGN FUND-RAISING AS SMALL BEER. IT'S A MAJOR ISSUE.

I'M SORRY TO INTERRUPT. I SAY THAT IT'S JUST -- THOSE ARE HOUSE RULES. THOSE ARE SELF-GOVERNING RULES. THOSE ARE LAWS, THE SENATE GOES BY THEIR RULES. THE HOUSE HAS THEIR RULES. AND I THINK THIS ISSUE, PARTICULARLY -- IT'S COME UP BEFORE. WITH PEOPLE RUNNING FOR FEDERAL OFFICES, AND I THINK THERE IS SOME AUTHORITY OUT THERE THAT SAYS THAT, WELL, THESE FEDERAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS TRUMP THE STATE LAWS. BUT THE QUESTION IS -- WELL, AND THEY DO. SO, THE QUESTION IS DO THEY TRUMP HOUSE RULES? BUT THAT'S -- AGAIN, THAT'S NOT IMPORTANT, BUT I DON'T THINK THAT'S GOING TO BE A BIG ISSUE EITHER WAY. THE MEMBERS WANT TO CHANGE IT, THEY CAN CHANGE IT. WE JUST HAVE TO GET TWO THIRD VOTE.

HOST: SPEAKER CARTER, THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.

THANK YOU.

HOST: HAVE A GOOD SESSION. WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

HOST: AND WE'RE BACK WITH OUR PANEL. ERNIE DUMAS JOINS US, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST FOR ARK, A TIMES, AND STEVE BRAWNER, A FREE-LANCE INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST. THANKS FOR JOINING US. WELL, WE HAVE THE SESSION STARTING MONDAY AND OUR CONVERSATION WITH THE SPEAKER, PRIVATE OPTION IS PRACTICALLY THE ONLY -- THERE'S NO NUMBER TWO.

WELL, THE WHOLE SESSION HINGES ON THAT ONE ISSUE AND YOU ASSUME THAT THEY WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THAT ISSUE FAIRLY EARLY IN THE SESSION. IT'S A MONTH-LONG SESSION. THEY'RE ALLOTTED UNDER THE CONSTITUTION, THEY CAN EXTEND IT, OF COURSE, BUT BE HARD TO EXTEND. BUT THEY'VE GOT TO DEAL WITH THAT EARLY ON BECAUSE IF THEY SCRAP THE PRIVATE OPTION, THEN THE WHOLE BUDGET'S UNDONE. AND GOVERNOR BEEBE'S BUDGET BLUE PRINT THAT HE HAS SENT THE LEGISLATURE WILL BE OUT THE WINDOW, AND YOU'D HAVE TO GO BACK AND FORMULATE EVERYTHING, PARTLY BECAUSE YOU LOSE -- IF YOU SCRAP THE MEDICAID PROGRAM, THAT PAYS THE MADE AD PROGRAM. IF YOU JUST DID THAT, JUST SCRAPPED THE PRIVATE OPTION PART OF IT, YOU LOSE ROUGHLY $90 MILLION OUT OF THE BUDGET AND YOU'D HAVE TO PICK THAT UP SOMEPLACE. BUT ALSO THE ISSUE IS YOU CAN'T JUST VOTE AGAINST THE PRIVATE OPTION. THERE IS A SINGLE BILL FOR THE MEDICAID. ALL THE MEDICAID PROGRAMS ARE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, YOU GET ONE VOTE ON THE WHOLE BILL UNLESS THEY CAN SOMEHOW PERSUADE THE JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE TO SEPARATE IT INTO A SEPARATE BILL OR SOMETHING. IF YOU VOTE AGAINST THE WHOLE THING, YOU VOTE AGAINST THE HISTORIC PROGRAM, NURSING FEDERAL AND STATE MONEY FOR NURSING HOMES. THERE'S 20 OR 25,000 PEOPLE THAT WOULD BE DUMPED OUT OF NURSING HOMES. YOU LOSE THE WHOLE MEDICAID PROGRAM INCLUDING MIKE HUCKABEE'S OUR KIDS FIRST PROGRAM, THE FAR AND AWAY THE LARGEST STATE GOVERNMENT EXPANSION IN MODERN TIMES. I DON'T KNOW, 300, 400,000 CHILDREN WOULD BE WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE. YOU PUT AGAINST ALL OF THAT. SO, IF YOU SCRAP THE WHOLE MEDICAID PROGRAM, YOUR WHOLE BUDGET IS IN FAR, FAR OUT OF KILTER. I GUESS SPEAKER CARTER WAS OPTIMISTIC THAT THEY WOULD PASS IT AND I THINK HE'S PROBABLY RIGHT. IT'S HARD TO VISUALIZE HOW THE LEGISLATURE COULD GO HOME WITHOUT A MEDICAID PROGRAM AND WITHOUT THE PRIVATE OPTION AS WELL. WITH THE PRIVATE OPTION -- I THINK 100,000 ARKANSANS NOW SIGNED UP ROUGHLY FOR THE MEDICAID PROGRAM. AND BY MARCH 31ST, THERE MAY BE 120 TO 125,000 PEOPLE IN ARKANSAS WHO WOULD SUDDENLY LOSE THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE ON JULY 1 IF THIS IS SCRAPPED. SO, I THINK IT'S -- THIS IS GOING TO BE ENORMOUS PRESSURE ON THOSE HANDFUL 9 OR 10 STATE SENATORS TO -- FOR ONE OR TWO OF THEM TO GE ALONG SO THEY CAN PASS THAT PROGRAM AND MOVE ALONG.

HOST: STEVE, IT'S A TOUGH ONE TO BACK AWAY FROM.

IT IS.

HOST: THE VOTE LAST YEAR. WELL, YOU KNOW, AS WE HEARD THE SPEAKER AND SOME OF THE ARCHITECTS OF THE PROGRAM, TAKE A DEEP BREATH, RELAX, WE'RE GOING TO GET THIS THING THROUGH. THE OPPONENTS SAY, DON'T BE SO QUICK.

YOU DO GET NOTHING IF YOU CHANGE YOUR VOTE. IF YOU VOTED FOR IT LAST TIME, YOU'VE ALREADY VOTED FOR IT. AND SO IF YOU VOTE AGAINST IT NOW, YOU HAVE FLIP-FLOPPED. SO, ESSENTIALLY YOUR OPPONENTS CAN CALL YOU A FLIP-FLOPER AND ALSO A SUPPORTER OF THE PRIVATE OPTION. SO REALLY ~ THAT'S WHY THERE'S BEEN VERY FEW WHO HAVE FLIPPED WHO WERE A YES LAST TIME WHO ARE NO'S. RIGHT NOW, THOUGH, THE HEAD COUNT IS IT'S ONE SHORT IN THE SENATE. AND, SO, AFTER MITTSY FROM MOUNTAIN VIEW SAID SHE SWITCHED HER VOTE, THE SENATOR, NOT THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND WAS REPLACED BY SOMEONE WHO IS AGAINST IT. THE SCRAMBLE RIGHT NOW IS TO FIND ONE SENATOR WHO WILL CHANGE THEIR VOTE AND THERE WILL PROBABLY BE SOME CONCESSIONS MADE. BUT AT THE SAME TIME -- BECAUSE THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH THAT CAN BE DONE TO TRY TO GET ONE VOTE. I TALKED TO SENATOR DAVIS LAST NIGHT. HE SAID THIS ARGUMENT IS GOING TO BE WON ON THE MERITS. THERE IS NOT GOING TO BE SMOKE IN MIRRORS. YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY JUST, YOU KNOW, KIND OF CHANGE SOMEBODY'S MIND ON THIS. ONE THING HE HE SAID, I DON'T WANT TO DISPUTE IT, THOSE ARE GOOD POLICY REASONS TO BE DEALT WITH EARLY IN THE SESSION. THAT MIGHT BE THE CASE OF WHAT HAPPENS. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT'S A VERY GOOD POLITICAL REASON TO DO IT LATE IN THE SESSION. AS A FILING PERIOD, GOING INTO MARCH 3RD. SOME OF THE LEGISLATORS WOULD PREFER TO WAIT TILL AFTER THE FILING PERIOD IS OVER TO VOTE ON THIS SO IF THEY DON'T HAVE AN INSPIRED PRIMARY OPPONENT IN THE UPCOMING ELECTION --

THERE IS ALSO SOME THOUGHT EARLY ON, IF YOU COULD FIND A WAY TO POSTPONE THE WHOLE THING AND NOT EVEN DEAL WITH THAT ISSUE AT THIS SESSION.

HOST: THE PRIMARY --

GET THROUGH THE PRIMARIES AND COME BACK IN JUNE BEFORE THE FISCAL YEAR ENDS AND HAVE A SPECIAL SESSION TO DEAL WITH THIS. I MEAN, THAT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE. BUT ONCE THEY DIDN'T PASS THE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT APPROPRIATION, SO STARTING JULY 1 THERE IS NOT GOING TO BE HIGHWAY PROGRAM IN ARKANSAS. YOU'RE GOING TO LAYOFF THOUSANDS OF HIGHWAY EMPLOYEES AND STOP ROAD BUILDING. SO, THEY CALLED A SPECIAL SESSION AND DEALT WITH THAT ISSUE. SO, I DON'T THINK THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. I THINK THEY'LL DEAL WITH IT AT THIS SESSION. THERE IS A LARGER ISSUE ABOUT IT AS WELL, AND THAT IS ARKANSAS -- THIS IS THE ONLY STATE IN THE COUNTRY WHERE THIS COULD HAPPEN. WE'RE THE ONLY STATE IN THE COUNTRY THAT REQUIRES A 3/4 VOTE OF BOTH HOUSES TO PASS NEARLY ALL BUDGET MEASURES, ALL APPROPRIATIONS. WE DID THAT STARTING IN 1934 WHICH MEANS THAT A TINY, TINY FRACTION, , 10 MEMBERS OF THE SENATE OUT OF 135 LEGISLATORS, 10 PEOPLE CAN CONTROL THE BUDGET ~. AND THAT'S NOT DEMOCRACY. AND I THINK THERE IS THAT APPEARANCE AS WELL, THE TINY LITTLE HANDFUL COULD BLOCK THIS HUGE PROGRAM. THAT'S ANOTHER ISSUE I THINK THAT WILL BE DEALT WITH PERHAPS POLITICALLY IN THE ELECTION THIS YEAR AS WELL.

HOST: WELL, A COUPLE OTHER ISSUES. ONE, CHAMBER HAS SORT OF COME UP, INTERNAL WORKINGS OF EACH CHAMBER. LET'S START WITH THE SENATE, BECAUSE THAT'S THE LAST CHAMBER MENTIONED AND THAT IS WE HAVE THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR PRESIDING OFFICER OF THE SENATE CANNOT FIND ANYTHING ELSE -- THEY'VE ALL BEEN HE'S CAN DO WITH THE DEPARTURE OF GOVERNOR DAR. WE HAVE FOUR EMPLOYEES IN THE OFFICE AND SOME GENERAL UNREST AS TO WHETHER THEY SHOULD REMAIN ON THE ROLL, SENATE PRO TEM SAYS I'LL TAKE IT, I'LL KEEP THEM. SMART?

THAT'S WHAT SENATOR DEMERAL SAID. THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR IS ATTACHED, THE EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES. AND, SO, MICHAEL FROM RUSSERVILLE SAID THEY'LL BE MY EMPLOYEES AND THEY'LL WORK FOR ME THE ENTIRE YEAR. ATTORNEY GENERAL MCDANIEL -- BY THE WAY, IS GENERALLY CONSIDERED IN HIGH REGARD FROM BOTH PARTIES. MCDANIEL SAID IN A RELEASE YESTERDAY, WHICH HE SAID IN THE KINDEST WAY HE COULD THAT THE SENATOR IS MY FRIEND, BUT I DISAGREE ON THIS ONE. HE DOES NOT HAVE THE POWER TO DO THIS. SENATOR SAID IT IS NONBINDING SO THIS IS WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO. I HAVE ACTUALLY HAD SOME PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THIS. I WAS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ARKANSAS, COMMUNICATIONSES DIRECTOR. WHEN HE PASSED AWAY, WE HAD SIX MONTHS TO BE IN THAT OFFICE. THERE WERE SOME LOOSE ENDS TO TIE UP, SOME THINGS TO CLEAN UP, SOME PHONES TO ANSWER, BUT NOT  SIX MONTHS WORTH OF WORK. RIGHT NOW WE'RE OUT A YEAR BETWEEN NOW AND WHEN A NEW LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR WOULD TAKE OVER. I'M NOT SURE HOW THESE PEOPLE COULD POSSIBLY SAY BUSY A YEAR UNLESS SENATOR LEMAROW COULD FIND SOMETHING TO DO.

HOST: I THINK THERE IS AN ASSUMPTION NOT ALL FOUR WOULD BE ON THE PAYROLL AT THE END OF THE YEAR, END OF THE PERIOD BUDGET, OPTIONS BEING MADE AVAILABLE TO THEM. THE ISSUE AGAIN, THE OFFICE OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ITSELF, WE'VE NEVER FOUND ANYTHING MUCH -- IT WAS LEFT TO THE INCUMBENT TO FIND SOMETHING TO DO.

THAT'S WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. WHEN ROCKEFELLER WAS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, HE WANTED TO BE A PUBLIC SERVANT. HE WANTED TO DO THINGS. SO, THAT'S WHAT MOST LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS HAVE DONE, A LOT OF THEM IN THE LAST 20 YEARS OR SO, IS TO TRY TO FIND SOMETHING TO DO TO BE OF SERVICE. WHETHER YOU'RE ENGAGED IN SOME KIND OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, YOU TRY TO FIND SOMETHING TO DO. AS YOU KNOW, IT'S VERY HARD TO FIND SOMETHING FOR HIM TO DO. NOW, THERE'S OBVIOUSLY SOME SYMPATHY, WHO WANTS TO THROW FOUR PEOPLE OUT OF WORK? IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR, YOU'RE GONE, YOU KNOW. THERE'S UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE THAT'S AVAILABLE TO THEM. I THINK THEY WOULD ALL QUALIFY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, BUT THERE'S JUST NO JUSTIFICATION FOR THESE PEOPLE STAYING ON BOARD. THERE IS NOTHING FOR THEM TO DO.

HOST: OKAY. AND THE OTHER MATTER, THAT'S THE HOUSE WILL BE ASKED -- SPEAKER AND I TALKED ABOUT IT, THE HOUSE WILL BE ASKED TO AMEND FUND-RAISING, CAMPAIGN FUND-RAISING. CURRENTLY WE'RE VOTING DURING A SESSION.

AND THAT'S BECAUSE YOU HAVE THREE HOUSE MEMBERS WHO ARE SEEKING OFFICE RIGHT NOW. CHARLIE CARLINS, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. AND RUNNING FOR CONGRESS. SO, THIS IS THE TIME --

HOST: THERE IS MR. WESTER MAN.

THAT'S RIGHT, THERE'S FOUR. SO, THIS IS THE TIME TO BE RAISING MONEY AND TRYING TO WIN THIS ELECTION AND HE HAS IN BOTH PRELIMINARY AND PRIMARY OPPONENTS. THEY DON'T WANT TO BE HAMSTRUNG FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH DURING THIS TIME AS THEIR OPPONENTS ARE OUT RAISING MONEY. THERE IS TALK OF SUSPENDING THE RULES FOR THIS SESSION AND IT'S KIND OF IFFY ON WHICH WAY IT'S GOING TO GO AT THIS POINT.

HOST: IT WILL TAKE-TWO THIRDS VOTE TO CHANGE THE RULES, I THINK. ~ SO, I'M GUESSING MIGHT BE HARD TO DO. YOU HAVE PEOPLE LIKE REPRESENTATIVE SABIN WHO IS CHAMPION OF ETHICS RULES. HE SAYS HE'LL DEMAND A ROLL CALL VOTE. IF THEY HAVE A VOICE VOTE THEY COULD PROBABLY PASS IT. THE SPEAKER COULD JUST DECLARE THE THING. IF THREE PEOPLE VOTE THAT THERE BE A ROLL CALL VOTE, IT MIGHT BE HARD TO PASS, WHO KNOWS.

EVERY ONE OF THEM THAT'S RUNNING IS A REPUBLICAN. THERE ARE MORE THAN 34 DEMOCRATS IN THE HOUSE AND THEY MIGHT LIKE TO SEE REPUBLICANS TRY TO BREAK THIS OUT.

HOST: OKAY. WE HAVE TWO RIVAL APPROACHES TO STATE TAXATION. MR. ROSS IS THE PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE. HE HAS HAD I PACKAGE.

IF YOU'RE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR, YOU'RE RUNNING ON CUTTING TAXES. HE CAME OUT LAST JULY WITH HIS OWN INCOME TAX. HE'S GOING TO CUT ALL THE -- HE'S GOING TO CUT TAXES ABOUT $100 MILLION A YEAR BY LOWERING THE TAX -- RAISING THE BRACKETS, LOWERING THE TAX RATES. MIKE ROSS HAS SAID THAT HE WOULD HAVE A TAX PLAN, BUT IT WOULD BE MORE CONSIDERED AND MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN THAT. AND HE HE CAME OUT WITH HIS PLAN THIS WEEK. IT'S A MUCH MORE COMPLICATED PLAN. HE RAISES ALL THE BRACKETS, MAKING IT A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME BEFORE YOU GET INTO A HIGHER BRACKET. THE TOP BRACKET WILL GO FROM -- IT'S CURRENTLY SOMETHING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF $34,000. AND BEFORE YOU WOULD HIT THAT BRACKET IN MIKE CROSS'S PLAN, YOU MIGHT HIT A LITTLE OVER $75,000 BEFORE YOU WOULD PAY THAT TOP RATE WHICH IS NOW 7% AND HE WOULD LOWER TO 6.%. HE ALSO SPREAD SOME BRACKETS OUT, THEY'RE NOW FIVE BRACKETS AND THEY GO TO 6 OR 7 BRACKETS. IT'S A MUCH MORE DETAILED PLAN ~. BUT THE MAIN THING IS HIS WOULD COST -- IT WOULD REDUCE REVENUES BY $565 MILLION, SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

HOST: EDGING CLOSE TO 6 MILLION.

HE'S GOING TO GRADUAL IT IN OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS. HE DOESN'T SAY HOW MANY, THE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS IN THE YEARS AHEAD.

HOST: REVENUES PERMITTING.

REVENUES PERMITTING.

HOST: STEVE?

THIS IS KIND OF THE GOVERNOR BEEBE APPROACH, HOW GOVERNOR BEEBE HAD THE SALES TAX, GRADUALLY OVER TIME. AND, SO, ROSS'S CAMPAIGN IS MUCH -- HE'S MUCH TRYING TO CAMPAIGN AS IF HE WILL BE AN EXTENSION OF GOVERNOR BEEBE'S PHILOSOPHIES. AND, SO, THE SAME PRINCIPLE WOULD APPLY, YOU KNOW, CUTTING TAXES OVER TIME AS REVENUES PERMIT.

HOST: THERE IS THE QUESTION FOR BOTH GENTLEMEN, BOTH PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEES. THE RECOVERY IS ACHINGLY SLOW AND THE JANUARY REVENUE REPORT AS ITS PREDECESSORSES HAVE BEEN OKAY, BUT NOTHING BEYOND THAT MUCH. HOW MUCH ROOM, HOW REALISTIC IS IT TO BE TALKING ABOUT CUTTING STATE REVENUES -- HOW MUCH ROOM IS THERE?

IT SEEM TO ME THERE IS NOT MUCH ROOM FOR REALISTIC TALK ABOUT A TAX CUT IN THE NEXT YEAR UNLESS THE ECONOMY PICKS UP PRETTY SHARPLY. IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS, IT DOESN'T LOOK THAT WAY. EVERY MONTH, NATIONALLY AS WELL AS ARKANSAS, THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLEN TO 6.6%, BUT THE JOBS AND WORK FORCE HAS DECLINED. SO, ANYWAY, IT DOESN'T LOOK GOOD NATIONALLY. IT LOOKS LIKE THE CLIMATE BARELY EKES ALONG. I DON'T SEE ANY ROOM FOR TAX CUTS. YOU COULD STILL PASS IT AND CONDITION IT UPON --

HOST: PUT A BILL ON THERE.

YES. HOUSE WITH THAT, GENTS, WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANK YOU FOR YOURS. SEE YOU NEXT WEEK ON "ARKANSAS WEEK".

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