LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In his final State of the State address to the combined general assembly, Governor Asa Hutchison spoke on the success of his career, his hopes for the future, and weathered an interruption from protestors.

Hutchinson kicked off the 2022 fiscal session after both the House and Senate convened. He began by reflecting on his time as governor, saying it was the “highest privilege of [his] public career” serving the state.

The governor celebrated various wins over the course of his two terms, highlighting industries and jobs brought to the state, a historic low unemployment rate, and the recently approved tax cuts that he worked to bring to Arkansans since being elected.

“We have lowered the individual income tax rate from 7% when I got elected to 5.5% this year,” Hutchinson said. The statement was met by applause from lawmakers, something that happened several times throughout the governor’s address.  

Three areas of public service were focused on in particular: healthcare, education, and law enforcement, with Hutchinson pushing for the continued funding and enrichment of all three.

Another area of note was infrastructure, with Hutchinson “challenging” Arkansas to become a leader in areas such as electric cars and autonomous vehicles. He said the state needed to invest more in electric vehicle charging stations and mentioned how current businesses and industries in the state are already primed for moving into innovative mobility.

“In Eastern Arkansas, we produce the steel that is required for battery casing for electric vehicles,” Hutchison explained, “so we are in a good position to shape the future from Arkansas for our nation.”

In addition, Hutchinson specifically pushed for state support of officers, deputies, and state troopers, saying, “the actions of this general assembly to fund more, pay more, and appreciate more will send the unmistakable message that in Arkansas we support and value our law enforcement officers.”

To back his words, the governor shared his support for a one-time $5,000 stipend for law enforcement officers, expanding funding for Act 786 which backs equipment and gear grants for local departments, and increased pay for state troopers.

He also proposed the addition of 489 beds at Calico Rock state prison, a statement that was immediately met by chanting of “no new cages” from the house gallery. Protestors had rallied on the capitol steps hours before in opposition to the prison expansion, and even after being removed from the chamber continued to chant outside. Capitol Police say two people were detained due to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.