Arkansas governor Mike Beebe issued his State of the State address yesterday on the grounds of the state capitol in Little Rock, and for the most part, the theme of his address was centered around one issue: the economy. More specifically, how will Arkansas deliver state services, improve public education, and focus on economic development in a time when the national economy is in it’s shakiest state since the depression.
“The fallout from the national economic downturn will be our biggest challenge this year and in this legislative session, but our charge and our responsibility remain unchanged. We must remain firm in providing not only the services our people depend on from their State, but also in striving to make them even better, even in tough economic times.”
Beebe started by stating his commitment to public education. Beebe dedicated roughly half of the States near billion dollar surplus last year to public education facilities, and Beebe pledged to continue to increase funding for public education efforts for pre-kindergarden education, K-12 programs, and for Arkansas Higher education.
The state lottery, passed by Arkansas voters in November can help fund these programs. “Our first step is to structure the lottery to be as efficient and as transparent as possible.” Beebe said. “Reducing the financial burden of our college students can help them focus on their studies, rather than on how they will pay for school next semester…I want every Arkansan who has earned it and wants to go, to have the chance to get a college degree. That’s what Arkansas is all about, that’s what America is all about.”
Beebe went on to say he’d like to “significantly increase resources for the Division of Children and Family Services.” He expressed his concern over the passing of Act 1, stating “I was disappointed when voters passed an initiated act last November limiting the number of Arkansans who may qualify to become foster and adoptive parents. Before Act 1, we already had three times more foster children than we had qualified homes available. Now our ability to place these children is further impeded.”
Economic development in Arkansas was the next issue, and Beebe stressed the need to continue to bring jobs to Arkansas. He cited some great progress to economic development in the HP facility in Conway, Caterpillar’s arrival in North Little Rock, and the Cooper Tire announcement that it would not close it’s Texarkana facility, and Beebe asked for continuation of the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, and to “replenish it this time with $50 million over the next two years, so that we can continue to be competitive and continue this progress.”
Beebe pledged to continue to attack the state’s grocery tax, proposing another one penny cut this year, and also proposed a 56¢ cigarette tax to pay for a statewide trauma system.
You can read, listen to, or watch the the whole address here.