I popped into the White County Republican Women’s meeting on Tuesday evening to hear State Rep. Mark Biviano unveil part of the House Republicans’ platform for next year’s general assembly. Biviano is serving as Policy Director for the House GOP caucus. (Minority Leader Bruce Westerman told me earlier this week that the full platform will be unveiled by the end of the month)
So, here’s a sneak peek at some of what we should see on the Republican platform in a few weeks:
1. Reigning in Government Spending. Biviano said, “We can’t keep growing government and expect taxpayers to keep paying the bill.” He added that a big part of reigning in spending is transparency: “The people deserve to know the good news & the bad news.” That’s change I can believe in right there.
Biviano cited the shortfalls in the Forestry department, the unemployment overpayments, and the increased projected shortfalls in the state’s Medicaid program as prime examples of how a little transparency could go a long way: “I learned about the increased projected shortfalls in Medicaid the same time y’all did, when I read the paper.” This is a serious problem that is rampant throughout the state government: shortfalls are being hidden for political purposes, and we, the taxpayers, are paying for it. Literally.
Biviano said reigning in government spending also includes implementing performance-based budgeting for state agencies. This system would give departments increases (or decreases) based on their performances, rather than across the board increases because ‘the governor said so.’
2. Tax Reform. Biviano said tax reform in Arkansas starts with eliminating the capital gains tax to encourage growth in the state. (click here to read a recent report from Goldwater Institute about the positive effects of such a repeal)
3. Fixing Medicaid. Biviano said Republicans wanted to use the state’s surplus from this year to cover the shortfalls in the program, but the governor did not want to listen. I would expect, and hope, that Republican solutions to the crisis will look something like this.
4. Protecting Arkansas’ Future. This part of the platform includes more pro-life legislation, which may include (if I understood correctly) a fetal pain bill.
Protecting the future also means reforming unemployment benefits & instituting voter ID requirements in the state, said Biviano. Biviano said we need drug testing before Arkansans can receive unemployment benefits, as well as some non-prohibitive voter ID requirement to prevent voter fraud in our state.
5. Educational Excellence. Biviano started by setting the record straight on Arkansas’ standing in education:
Despite what you may read in the papers, we rank 45th in the ability to achieve. 50% of Arkansas high school graduates have to take additional coursework before college.
I am a believer in school choice. It’s in our best interest as a state to put our students where they can succeed.
Biviano also added that we spend more than $11,000 per student in Arkansas which is more than enough to cover the cost of private education. (I believe when I was in private high school the tuition was right around $5,000 per year, or less than half what the taxpayers are currently paying–and I believe I got a better return on my investment)
And this is just the preview! This is very exciting for idea-oriented conservatives across the state. And even aside from the content, which is excellent, it’s just a great idea for the caucus to present a detailed, no-nonsense plan like this to the voters. It’s a ‘contract with America’ approach that is bold, clear, and principled.
If they stick to it, it’s a winner for Republicans and a winner for Arkansas. It will resonate with voters. It already is.