Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Keet held a press conference early this afternoon to accuse Gov. Mike Beebe of misleading the public on a host of issues including the economy and education. Keet said the governor had not given Arkansans all the facts on these various issues, that Beebe had simply highlighted the positive and ignored the negative. According to Keet, the state has not done enough to create a "business-friendly environment." Forget that the state has any number of economic incentives to attract businesses, a lax regulatory system (just think about state regs and the natural gas industry) and friendly workers comp and tort laws. As for solutions, Keet said we needed to get rid of more regulations placed on businesses and that the government needed to "get out of the way."
Keet did offer one example of a business regulation that needed to go. He said he talked to a sawmill owner who had been fined $10,000 by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for using a dash to fill out ADEQ forms instead of the required two zeros. A spokesperson for ADEQ, however, says there is no evidence of such a fine. Usually, if forms are filled out incorrectly they just ask that they be resubmitted.
According to a press release sent out by the Keet campaign, the news conference today was entitled "Time for Truth."
A Beebe campaign spokesman fires back:
If Jim Keet wants to continue running down the progress Arkansas has made in the face of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, he needs to take it up with the experts who do not have a political ax to grind and the Arkansas people who have worked so hard under such difficult circumstances.
Jim Keet is simply wrong in suggesting that Arkansas is doing worse than most states. Time magazine recently reported that Arkansas will be one of only four states in the country expected to balance the budget this year. Almost 25,000 jobs have been announced in the past four years. Arkansas placed tenth in the nation in Quality Counts 2010, the annual report by Washington-based Education Week that ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on education policies and student achievement. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research Arkansas is one of only three states in the country that rank in the top ten for pre-k access to both 3 and 4-year-olds. Even the State Supreme Court finally ended a decades long dispute on the adequacy of our state’s public schools.
There is also no doubt, as Governor Beebe says every day, that the work is not done to continue cleaning up the mess Washington and Wall Street have made. That’s why, just last week, Bloomberg Television held up Arkansas as the model for states around the country to follow on how to navigate the worst national economy of our lifetimes. Voters will be able to compare the records of Mike Beebe and Jim Keet, and we look forward to a full discussion of both.
Keet criticized Gov. Beebe in the release saying the governor had "spoken about adding 25,000 jobs" and claimed the state was in "the top ten in education."
Keet said the governor had been disingenuous by touting the 25,000 figure and ignoring the job losses sustained by Arkansas citizens. Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Beebe, said it is true that Arkansans have felt the effects of the economic downturn and Gov. Beebe has been honest about the state's job situation. He points to the governor's address to the general assembly during this winter's fiscal session in which Beebe said, "I've been saying for more than a year now that Arkansas is not immune from the effects of this international economic crisis... But Arkansas remains in better fiscal shape that 47 of our sister states, and that it the direct result of your leadership. During this recession, we have lost 27,000 jobs, but we have announced 23,000 new jobs during the same period; and the Quick Action Closing Fund, which you all created and you all have afforded this State, is part of the main reason that we've remained competitive in a tough economy and added even higher-paying jobs, in many instances, than the ones we have lost.”
As far as education goes, Keet's release said, "The only study Governor Beebe quotes uses a variety of matrices, most of which have nothing to do with results achieved by students." Beebe cited an "Education Week" study in which Arkansas was ranked 10th overall in education. Keet points out that within individual categories of the same study, Arkansas didn't fare so well (34th in K-12 achievement, 46 in chance of success). DeCample says Beebe has remained realistic about the state's educational system. "We always know there are parts of our system we need to work on and the governor's not going to be satisfied with being 10th, but it does show the strides we've made as a state."