In the 1990s, I had the privilege of supporting and working for Asa and Tim Hutchinson during their congressional campaigns. As a former county Republican chairman and a state representative in Arkansas, I have closely followed Asa Hutchinson’s career. Recently, there has been speculation about his bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, prompting me to shed light on his true record and not the political illusion he often presents.
To start, let’s discuss his stance on crime. Governor Hutchinson assumed office in 2015, a time when crime rates were escalating due to the implementation of a public protection act by the previous Democratic Governor, Mike Beebe, in 2011. Unfortunately, this act, intended to address overspending and bad budgeting, had the unintended consequence of exacerbating crime. Interestingly, one of the act’s staunch supporters was State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, Asa Hutchinson’s nephew.
However, don’t just take my word for it. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ latest data, Arkansas currently leads the country in violent crime rates. This data, collected through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) from 292 out of 311 Arkansas law enforcement agencies, is considered the most reliable and accurate. Furthermore, Arkansas ranks fifth in property crime rates. While the data does not differentiate between first-time and repeat offenders, it is evident that the crime situation in Arkansas has worsened.
During this time, Governor Hutchinson relied heavily on his nephew, State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, to handle the crime crisis. This marked the beginning of a political illusion aimed at distracting voters from his actual actions and focusing on his rhetoric.
The first step in crafting this illusion was convening a task force. Typically, these task forces generate media coverage with flashy presentations before producing reports that are supposed to address the problem at hand. Unfortunately, the task force headed by State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson squandered thousands of taxpayers’ dollars and law enforcement officials’ valuable time without producing any meaningful solutions. Consequently, crime rates persisted in their upward trajectory.
It is worth noting that “reform” often serves as a political illusion, employed by politicians vying for higher office. Governor Hutchinson, too, championed the reforms proposed by his nephew, touting them as effective measures for improving the crime situation. However, as evidenced by the ongoing increase in crime, these reforms failed to deliver the desired impact.
In 2017, Governor Hutchinson and State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson continued to introduce reform bills to maintain the status quo, impeding law enforcement efforts and failing to address the state’s prison capacity shortage. Over his eight-year tenure, the Correction Department budget remained stagnant at eight percent of the state’s general revenue budget, effectively resulting in cuts to public safety. Criminals knew they could expect early release from prison, and parole violations were only met with mild consequences.
During this troubling time, I took action by filing a public safety bill that proposed a mandatory 80 percent sentence requirement for four-time convicted felons. The escalating crime rates, primarily driven by repeat offenders, necessitated urgent measures. However, Governor Hutchinson opposed and defeated my bill, resorting to a variation of the age-old Bernie Sanders illusion by claiming it would increase costs and harm the state budget, hindering education and endangering senior citizens.
Contrary to the governor’s claims, I presented two viable options to cover the additional costs of keeping repeat offenders behind bars. One option was to increase the Correction Department’s share of the state budget to ten percent. The other option was to allocate revenue from the internet sales tax towards building prisons and improving the remuneration of law enforcement officers.
In conclusion, Governor Asa Hutchinson has created a political illusion surrounding his crime-fighting efforts in Arkansas. Despite his tough talk, the state’s crime rates have reached alarming levels under his leadership. It is essential for the public to delve deeper into his true record rather than fall for the illusions of grandeur he presents on the campaign trail.