Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is coming in hard, ordering a hiring freeze his second day in office and telling state agencies he must approve any new rule or regulation based on its potential impact on businesses.
Under the executive orders, signed Wednesday, agencies that show “legitimate business need” will be allowed to hire, and agencies will be allowed to submit new rules and regulations to the state legislature only if Hutchinson determines they don’t “unnecessarily” burden businesses, reports Arkansas Business. All state agencies will have to submit either request to his office.
The former congressman defeated Democrat Mike Ross handily to replace the state’s Democratic governor, and will work with a Republican controlled-state legislature.
He also proposed a plan Wednesday to lower taxes for the middle class by reducing their income tax brackets by a percentage point. Taxpayers earning between $21,000 and $35,099 would pay 5 percent instead of 6 percent on income taxes, and those earning between $35,100 and $75,000 would pay 6 percent instead of 7 percent.
The immediate push for tax cuts frustrated some state delegates who expected an early emphasis on other issues, such as higher education, infrastructure development and workforce education. Instead of shaping the budget around their priorities, delegates will have to lobby for room in a budget already shaped by the tax cuts.
“It’s very unusual and fraught with some risk,” Democratic legislator Uvalde Lindsey told Arkansas Online. Previous lawmakers have waited until the end of a session to propose tax cuts and other budget commitments, he said.
Hutchinson said he would delay implementation of a 2013 tax cut that reduces all brackets by 1/10 of a percentage point to reduce the strain on the state’s budget. He said his plan would cost the state $2 million in fiscal 2015 and $102.1 million in fiscal 2017.
“I think there’s tremendous support for it among the people of Arkansas,” he told Arkansas News. “That’s what they voted for me to do and what they intended for me to accomplish.”