The Daily Caller interviewed Republican Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an exclusive interview. Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared her achievements in her first session of being governor and what she plans to concentrate on during the next session.
Sanders spoke about her actions on a variety of issues that she feels are most important for Arkansas. These included education reform, tax cuts and fighting crime. She explained to the audience what Arkansas’ next legislative session will look like. She stated that she plans to reduce the state income tax and cut government waste, as well as lowering overall government spending.
She also praised the state’s education reform bill, Literacy, Empowerment, Accountability, Readiness, Networking, and School Safety (LEARNS Act). Sanders signed the legislation in March. It establishes a school option program, which increases the number of eligible students each year by giving vouchers worth $7,413 for students who are not in the public school system.
In K-5 classrooms, the law bans teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Arkansas LEARNS is all about teachers’ needs being met, parents being respected, and our children getting the education they deserve. Starting teacher pay went from being among the lowest in the nation to one of the highest. Every teacher received at least $2,000 in bonus. We also invested in pre-k and early literacy, and created new career and technical training for high school teachers. Sanders stated that the state will pay for the costs of this law, and that it fully funded teacher raises.” Sanders said to the Caller.
Sanders signed legislation on Thursday afternoon that prohibits school districts from taking teacher paychecks to auto-defend union dues.
She stated that she wanted to ensure that teachers were able to decide for themselves whether they want to join a union or association. “I am always looking for opportunities to empower our teachers and our parents, and this does just that.
Sanders also highlighted her social media bill that she signed Wednesday. Minors must get parental consent before they can sign up for major social networks.
“We require new social media users verify their age using a third party validator. She explained that new users below 18 years old will need permission from their parents to use the app. We know that social media can be dangerous for young children. Since social media became more popular, teens have experienced an increase in depression and loneliness. One third of teenage girls considered suicide within the last year.
She said that you don’t need to be 18 in order to create a social media account. You just need to get permission from your parents. “So we are not prohibiting anyone from accessing social networking… Frankly, it is our desire to see children get out and about and enjoy our state.
Sanders also spoke out about the crime bill that she signed into law. It will require the worst felons in the state to serve 100 per cent of their sentence. All felons must serve at least 85 per cent of their sentences before being eligible for supervision release. The crime bill also funds a new state prison.
“One of the problems that has been a problem – not only in Arkansas but across the country – is the push for violent repeat offenders to return into the communities. She stated that this is something we won’t tolerate. We are trying to reduce crime in the state by cracking down violent repeat offenders. Also, we want to address the issue of prison capacity by building a new one. This hasn’t been done in almost two decades. Not since my dad [former Gov. Arkansas has not built a new prison since Mike Huckabee was governor.
Sanders said, “Look, that’s not something sexy talking about.” It’s not something that I would want to see us spend our state’s time and resources on. The simple truth is that we cannot allow those who violate the law to return to our community to continue their crimes. This is where I live as a parent to three children. I want Arkansas to be safe for my children and all Arkansas kids. We are taking these measures to achieve exactly that.
Arkansas also passed significant tax cuts during Sanders’ first session as governor. She explained the details and outlined her plan to lower state income taxes to zero.
“Continuing to responsibly eliminate the state income tax was one of the priorities we set out during the campaign. We took steps to achieve that. We made a $150 million reduction to the personal income taxes and just under 40 million to the corporate income taxes. This tax covers approximately 1.1 million Arkansans. It is the largest tax payer in the state. Sanders stated that anyone earning more than $24,700 will be eligible for a tax reduction in Arkansas.
“We will continue to work on it until we reach zero. Arkansas must be more competitive because it is sandwiched between Texas, Tennessee and Tennessee which have no state income taxes. That’s one way we’re doing it. She continued, “And I’m really proud that we were able give money back to Arkansas’ hardworking people.”
Sanders shared with the Caller that she was proud of her first legislative session and set out her goals for next year.
She said, “We are very excited for it to end but really proud of the way this first legislative session went.” We started with a few priorities, and were able pass landmark legislation in each of these priority areas. We are so proud to have the best education package in Arkansas’ history. Also, we have what we call the Safer, Stronger Arkansas legislative packages… which focuses on increasing and growing the state’s outdoor economy.
“We want the state income tax to be a constant focus of our efforts. Sanders said that he was hopeful that we could continue to move that ball down and get more money into taxpayers’ hands. He also mentioned that he would be taking a look at government waste and spending. Sanders said, “I believe that there is a lot of waste in the country and that we are spending, wasting money, and not getting the results we want.” There are many places that we can look at in this space. Those will be the most important things. The fiscal session will be our next session, which will take place in the early part of next year. It will be focused on the budget and financial issues in the state.
Sanders spoke out about two Republican colleagues who were instrumental to her success as governor, state Senate President Pro Tempore Bart Hester (Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd). Both Shepherd and Hester spoke to The Caller about Sanders’ first session as governor. They both said she did more than her campaign promises.
“So, as governor, she’s been everything she promised the people of Arkansas. She doesn’t waste time on meetings that don’t produce results. She expects that a meeting she has with you will be productive, and that we’re discussing real issues in Arkansas. Hester said that every time she walks out of a meeting, it makes me prouder that she is Arkansas’ governor.
He cited education reform as his greatest accomplishment.
Arkansas should be proud to have education reform. Hester stated that Arkansas will pay its teachers what they are due and that the state’s education system would be focused on student success rather than institutional success.
He said, “I believe that Arkansas is going to reap the benefits for generations to follow.” So when you have been in the legislature for a while like me, you begin to think about how long you’ve been doing it. How have we made a difference? I believe we’ve made more changes that will impact generations in the past 100 days than we did in 10 years, since I was in the legislature.
Shepherd also stated that education reform was a major accomplishment for the state, and he praised Sanders’ efforts as governor.
“I believe her first 100 days were great. She’s been very efficient. She was overwhelmingly elected governor. She talked about bold big ideas during the campaign, and she has followed up on them as she entered office. Shepherd stated that Shepherd believes she has followed through on what she said on the campaign trail and made the most of her first legislative session as governor’s assistant.
The fiscal session will be the next session, and it will take place in April 2024.