Q&A: Governor Hutchinson’s Infrastructure, Education, and Military Initiatives

By Governor Asa Hutchinson

 SIFMA’s 2015 Annual Meeting
The Capital Markets Conference

Speaker Perspective with Governor Asa Hutchinson
46th Governor of Arkansas

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is joining SIFMA’s Annual Meeting on a panel about the state government’s perspective on capital markets. To get a preview of what he will speak about, we asked the Governor about some of the state-level initiatives he has introduced since taking office earlier this year.

Read the first article in this two-part series on Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas economy here.

SIFMA: We often hear about America’s “infrastructure deficit” and the trillions of dollars required to solve it. Can you tell us a bit about your newly established Governor’s Working Group on Highway Funding?

Gov. Hutchinson: The Working Group on Highway Funding was created to come up with a solution to modernize the formula for how our state’s highways are financially supported. Highway funding continues to be a problem all across the country. This working group brings different public and private entities to the table to create optimal solutions for sustaining the needs of our state’s infrastructure today and in the future. Several funding options will be presented by the working group to my office on December 15, 2015. After reviewing their recommendations, Arkansas will move forward with legislation to implement a new framework for our state highway system that addresses our critical needs.

SIFMA: Can you tell us a little about how you are preparing future generations of Arkansans for success? In early September, you tweeted that “a robust economy starts with higher education,” and called for more affordable college tuition. What can government and industry do to accomplish this goal?

Gov. Hutchinson: It is important for Arkansas’s higher education institutions to adequately prepare students for the workforce. Partnerships between K-12, higher education and industry are vital to strengthening and growing our state economy. To achieve this partnership, higher education institutions must work with industry leaders who communicate their workforce needs. In response to these needs, education institutions can tailor programs to successfully prepare students to enter the workforce with the necessary skills for employment. 

SIFMA: Under your leadership, Arkansas has become the first state to provide computer coding classes to all high school students. How has the rollout and response been so far, and how will this shape the next generation of Arkansans?

Gov. Hutchinson: Arkansas is working to provide increased opportunities for students through this important initiative. In one year, Arkansas had a 260% increase in high school student enrollment in computer science courses, with large increases in female and African American student enrollment. Students are showing a keen interest in these courses and are responding to the national demand for computer coding skills. I expect enrollment numbers to grow as more teachers are trained to teach computer science and student interest gains more momentum. In addition, we have exciting plans for the future. The Department of Education is working on K-8 frameworks for computer coding, so students will have the opportunity to gain exposure to computer coding at a younger age.

SIFMA: Another important focus for you as Governor has been the military installations and defense contractors that represent an important segment of Arkansas’ society and economy. You recently launched The Governor’s Military Affairs Committee – what are some of the objectives of this committee, and how will they influence economic development in your state?

Gov. Hutchinson: Before the creation of the Governor’s Military Affairs Committee, there was no statewide organization in place to support our military installations and implement proactive, long-term strategies for economic development interests. The committee will work to develop and implement a cohesive statewide strategy to advocate for and protect our installations, as well as creating a working, sustainable budget for this effort. My role as Governor will be to ensure funding goes toward retention and protection of existing installations and missions. This will help to promote and expand future economic opportunities in Arkansas and facilitate greater utilization of existing facilities for our service men and women.

SIFMA: You have already put so much in motion with less than a year in your office – what will 2016 look like for you and Arkansas at large?

Gov. Hutchinson: In my first legislative session as Governor, we cut more than $100 million from our state’s income tax rate. It was the largest in our state’s history, and that’s just the beginning. I plan to continue that work of reforming our tax code to make our state more competitive from a jobs standpoint. I anticipate my computer science initiative will continue gaining momentum and student enrollment rates to increase for the 2016-2017 school year. But above all else, I will continue to market Arkansas throughout my travels and seek out every opportunity for economic growth for our people and state.

Join us at SIFMA’s 2015 Annual Meeting on Nov. 10 in Washington, DC