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A Discussion With Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe

Indeed, Beebe has defied the odds. Raised by a single mother who worked as a waitress to support him, Beebe is passionate about making sure every child in the state receives a world-class education. He is also committed to creating good-paying jobs, making healthcare more affordable, and offering tax relief. Beebe's pro-business stance includes giving existing businesses a greater role and voice in state economic development. Area Development reviews Governor Beebe's plans for education and business growth in Arkansas.

Jennifer LeClaire  (Apr/May 07)
On education. Just as we provide ARKids First for children in need of healthcare so that they can lead healthy lives, we will provide pre-kindergarten education to at-risk children to help them begin school ready to learn. We'll make this a reality by investing an additional $40 million into the Arkansas Better Chance program to provide voluntary, top-quality pre-school classes to all children whose families earn up to 200 percent of the poverty level. Total funding will now be $111 million.

In today's world, just learning to type on the keyboard won't suffice. Our kids deserve broadband infrastructure that connects them to the Internet and provides technology equity. Therefore, we will undertake an up-to-date assessment of all technology resources in our schools, showing us where we need to improve and how these resources are used. With that, the Arkansas Department of Education and the Department of Information Systems will formulate a timeline to ensure that every child has SAFE Access to the online world.

Not everyone has the opportunity to immediately pursue higher education after high school. I'll work withthe legislature to further increase opportunity for higher education by expanding the Career Pathways Initiative from the current 11 community colleges to all 22. And we'll expand educational access to more young people and adults through our public libraries. So, to make sure that the resources are available for the task our public libraries are charged with, we'll increase funding for them by $1.7 million.

On economic development. The mission of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development, first and foremost, should be to aggressively seek to provide better-paying jobs that offer a greater quality of life to our people. Part of that mission will focus on building stronger relationships between community colleges and economic development efforts. The Arkansas Delta Training and Education Consortium in East Arkansas is the model for how we can match the curricula of our community colleges to the needs of potential businesses and area employers in the state. And this mission will put a greater emphasis on regional partnerships. We are all in this together, and what is good for Southeast Arkansas is good for Northwest Arkansas.

On tax cuts and credits. As we look forward to the future, we must put a special focus on the industries of the 21st century that will ensure our long-term economic success. To help attract new manufacturers and retain the ones we have, we'll phase out the sales tax on utilities for manufacturers, with the first step being a one-sixth reduction. I will work with the legislature and the legislative leadership to roll back the sales tax on off-road diesel fuel and replace it with a per-gallon tax coupled with an incentive to purchase biodiesel. And I'll work with the legislative leadership on crafting a tax credit for the construction of crushers and other bio-fuel infrastructure. For an investment today, we can seed the industry of the future right here in our own backyard. Today, there is the potential to create gasoline - not ethanol, but gasoline - from cellulose products already growing right here in Arkansas.

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