LITTLE ROCK – This will be the last radio address of my first four years as Governor. When I took office in January of 2015, four years looked like a long time. We accomplished much, and the time has passed quickly. As the year 2018 draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect and to be thankful. I am most grateful for family, community and friends, but I am also thankful for another four years to serve this state.
Every decision I have made has been driven by my desire to improve the quality of life in Arkansas. Whether the issue is creating a strong workforce, strengthening our schools or transforming and reducing the size of state government, the underlying question always had been – and always will be: “Will this make our state a better place in which to live and work?”
I am moving full speed preparing for my second term. I will continue to pursue my growth agenda of competitive tax cuts, pay raises for starting teachers, government transformation and a plan to improve our system of roads and highways.
As I looked to the future, I created the Red Tape Reduction Task Force to study licensing, certification and fees to see whether we can cut the costs and red tape for people in certain occupations; I created the Arkansas School Safety Commission to assess security at schools and recommend ways to ensure safety; the Transformation Advisory Board presented its plan to reduce state government from 42 cabinet-level agencies to 15.
My growth agenda builds on all we accomplished during my first term, including the Computer Science Initiative, which was the first law that I signed as Governor. The initiative established Arkansas as a leader in computer-science education.
We were the first state in the nation to require all high schools to offer a course in computer coding. Since the fall of 2014, the number of teachers who are teaching computer science has grown from 20 to 372; the number of students enrolled in computer science has increased by 620 percent from 1,100 to over 8,000; and the number of girls studying computer science rose from 223 to nearly 2,500. That’s an increase of 1,100 percent.
We have cut taxes by $180 million, the biggest cuts in state history; 90 percent of our individual taxpayers have benefited from the cuts.
Our economy is booming. Our unemployment rate has remained at historic lows, including a period in 2017 when it remained at 3.4 percent for several months.
We have also improved access to post-high school technical training, and we have worked with industry to provide training in high-need professions, such as ammonia refrigeration and the repair and maintenance of diesel engines.
Out-of-state business executives who are looking for a place to expand recognize that we are building a workforce that is well equipped for high-tech industry. We have successfully recruited 310 new and expanding companies, both national and international, to come to Arkansas. That has produced $7 billion in new capital investment in the state and 11,700 new jobs.
The new growth numbers from the census bureau are encouraging. The report confirms that we are creating opportunities in Arkansas that keep our homegrown talent at home and attract new residents. Arkansas’s natural beauty lures tourists, and then they fall in love with our state and make it home.
All of this is good news for the future of Arkansas, and I am grateful for the chance to help make it happen.
Have a safe and happy new year.