Opinion Politics

Op-Ed: Expect More for Arkansas

by Jared Henderson

For almost 40 years, we’ve watched the same political debate here in Arkansas: big government vs. small government, liberals vs. conservatives. Over time – and especially over the last 20 years – this debate has gotten more and more disheartening. It has also become increasingly outdated.

I’m running for governor because it’s time to do more and expect more for Arkansas’s future.

Jared Henderson, Democrat, Governor

Jared Henderson

As an Arkansan, I’m happy to see the incremental progress our state has made in a few areas over the last couple administrations. However, as a leader who has worked all over this state in recent years, I find it unacceptable that Arkansas ranks 50th in health care and 48th in Medicare quality.  We rank 45th in infrastructure, 49th in internet access and 49th in economic opportunity.

We need a governor who understands that many Arkansans are one paycheck or one serious illness away from poverty. We need bold leadership and new ideas to solve this problem, rather than leadership that celebrates the status quo or marginal progress in select areas of the state.

Our governor is now proposing tax cuts exclusively for the wealthiest Arkansans that could cost as much as $180 million a year. Is it better to make a bet on “trickle-down economics” from folks that have just gotten a tax cut from Washington, or should we invest in expansion of Pre-K? Or rural infrastructure? Or should we shore up rural hospitals that are being threatened by cuts to Medicaid?

Our hospitals are the backbone in many of our rural communities and ensure that all Arkansans live in driving distance of a good medical facility. We need a vision, solutions and real results to protect Arkansans’ access to quality, affordable healthcare.

It’s time to do more and expect more for Arkansas’s future.

From NASA to McKinsey to Teach For America, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in the world in science, business, and education. We need leadership that recognizes that we are living the most dynamic, rapid and expansive period of change in human history.  Think about it: the smart phone that we all have in our possession today would have been a piece of magic to a person in 1990 – and that is only a single example of how fast our world is changing.

Arkansans are more than capable of keeping up with and even getting ahead of this curve. But we must set bold goals today – particularly in education and in small business development.

Public education is the key to Arkansas’s future.  And the health of the teaching profession is the key to a strong public education system.

Starting now, we must set a goal that within ten years Arkansas will be the best state in the country to be a public school teacher. We need to treat our educators today with the respect they deserve, we need to provide them with excellent training and sufficient resources.  Then, we need to get out of their way.  If we can do this, we can retain the excellent educators already in our schools today, and we can inspire the best of our youth to enter one of our most important professions.

Small business development has always been the primary creator of jobs in this country and a rich source of innovation. Let’s make Arkansas the best state in the country to start a small business – not only in our urban and suburban towns, but in our rural communities as well.

I’ve worked in dozens of Arkansas’s rural communities the last six years and in every single town I’ve been in I have found incredible, smart people with the work ethic, the courage and the vision to start a small business.

What they don’t usually have is seed capital to get started and access to health care while their family takes the risk, and they often lack that first 20 hours of basic business training that will give you a fighting shot as a scrappy new business owner.

We don’t have to focus exclusively on bringing jobs from other countries here that benefit just a few communities when we can actually empower Arkansans in every town to build their own small businesses. That is one of things I plan to do as your Governor.

When I look at Arkansas, I see a state that is less than one percent of the US population, but we produce world changing, industry-defining businesses. Our farmers and our greater agricultural industry are not simply critical to America, they are important to the entire planet. Arkansas elected the first woman to the U.S. Senate and raised a President. We’re the home of cultural icons like Johnny Cash and some of the wisest people that have ever lived like Maya Angelou.

Our state has a rich history, and so it only seems natural to me that we chart a bold future.

It’s time to do more and expect more for Arkansas’ future and from its leadership.

Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics will feature exclusive op-eds provided by members of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. For the latest, click here, only on AMP.

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