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Arkansas governor touts successes from legislative session, talks about future agenda

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says a legislative session where he won support for several of his key agenda items, including a $102 million tax cut and an effort to ease prison overcrowding, "reflected the best of Arkansas." But the Republican governor acknowledged several unresolved issues still need to be addressed.

Hutchinson on Thursday sat down with several reporters to talk about this year's session, which wrapped up last week and is set to formally adjourn later this month, and his future plans.

Some of the highlights from Hutchinson's remarks:


TAX CUTS

After winning support for his middle-class tax cut proposal, Hutchinson said he wants to talk with legislative leaders about the next steps in his campaign pledge to cut income taxes across the board. The package approved this year cuts income taxes by 1 percent for those making between $21,000 and $75,000 a year.

"I think it depends upon how fast our economy grows, but I want to have a consensus developed for it," Hutchinson said. The governor said he doesn't plan to push for additional tax cuts during next year's session, which will focus primarily on the budget.


GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION

Hutchinson said he's interested in looking at a reorganization of state agencies, especially after lawmakers approved legislation that would study a restructuring of state government.

Hutchinson indicated he would have a plan to present to lawmakers before the 2017 session.

"I've always wanted to address efficiency of state government," Hutchinson said, who noted that former Govs. Dale Bumpers and Mike Huckabee have taken on similar reorganization proposals.


LETHAL INJECTION

The governor said he was confident a new law aimed at restarting executions in the state after a decade-long lull would be upheld. Several death row inmates have asked a Pulaski County judge to strike down the law, which allows the Department of Correction to use a combination of three drugs for executions and would make suppliers of lethal injection drugs confidential.

Hutchinson said he has thought about the possibility of having to carry out an execution but he believes the state is still a long way from resuming capital punishment.

"It's important you do it with serious gravity. We're a long ways away from any such night, but that's important," he said. "Secondly, you just want to make sure the case is one in which there's not a reasonable doubt and that due process has been met and there are sufficient court reviews and all of those protections are in place."


TEN COMMANDMENTS

Hutchinson said he hoped a privately funded Ten Commandments monument near the state Capitol that he allowed under a bill signed this week would focus on the role the commandments have had in the nation's judicial system. He said he hoped the secretary of state would approve a design that finds the right balance.

"I think it is a recognition of that document, the Ten Commandments being a part of our foundation as a democracy and as a country," he said. "I think it's important that it's done in a way that's reflective of that history and that it's not simply used as making a political point."


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