This is an open letter to Mike Beebe, also known as the “Happy Hugger” for his sudden and euphoric embraces last week of recoiling newspapermen who are unaccustomed to affection, demonstrated or otherwise.
I taped a conversation the other day with Roby Brock for his weekly television show, “Talk Business.” Roby said the word that occurred to him as he pondered your coming governorship was “boring.” He insisted he meant it as a compliment reflecting uneventful competence.
I proposed “efficient.” But my amendment was mostly cosmetic.
As a 20-year master of legislative detail in the state Senate, your inclination will be to function as a glorified legislator emphasizing expertise on process over bold advocacy on policy.
I’m not going to ask you to think outside your box, but only because that’s a horrid cliche. Instead, I’m going to refer you to Barack Obama.
He has a new book called “The Audacity of Hope.” He writes that if one is to display the utter audacity to run for the presidency, then one should do so only to aspire to greatness.
I commend the premise to you as governor-elect.
You understand audacity. You were born in a tarpaper shack. Now you crate your things for the Governor’s Mansion. That’s an audacious trip.
You are aware that an unfortunately emerging and small-minded majority in the state Senate is likely to want to take large sums of the budget surplus, now $840 million or so, and divide it among legislators equally for pork barrel. Legislators will want to do this at the very time you probably will be trying to explain to the “little guy” of your television advertising that the state can’t afford to remove the sales tax from groceries completely.
You’ll find yourself making that case even though state fiscal officials have recalculated that you can expect a previously unforeseen hundred million dollars or more in your operating budget for the next fiscal year.
You understand better than anyone that these are different accounts. The surplus exists already in one-time money and the grocery tax must be taken out of future and uncertain operating budgets.
But you should remember your campaign vow to “under-promise” and “over-deliver.” You should step back from the legislative trees to behold the gubernatorial forest, where legislators will be spending freely while the working man forks over a sales tax on his bread and milk.
I ask you to ponder audacious over-delivery.