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Hutchinson proposes $5K bonuses for law enforcement officers


Gov. Asa Hutchinson is backing a plan to give $5,000 bonuses to law enforcement officers in Arkansas.

Hutchinson made the announcement Monday during his eighth and final state of the state address. He said the total cost for the one-time expense would be about $45 million and would cover every county and city certified law enforcement officer and frontline certified officers.

The governor said the bonuses were designed to award and incentivize officers.

“Currently our law enforcement is underfunded, underpaid and underappreciated,” Hutchinson said. “The actions of this General Assembly to fund more, pay more and to appreciate more will send the unmistakable message that in Arkansas we support and value our law enforcement officers.”

Hutchinson also is calling for “significant” pay increase for state troopers. He challenged counties and cities to follow suit.

The governor also proposed $10 million for the Public Safety Equipment Grant Program, which was passed last year. The program has received about $5 million in equipment requests from cities and counties, Hutchinson said. However, he said the program does not have the money to meet all those requests. He proposed $5 million in funding to fill the current requests plus an additional $5 million for future requests.

Hutchinson’s speech was disrupted when he brought up a plan to build a new prison that would house 498 inmates. Protestors began chanting, “No new cages,” and were loud enough the governor had to stop his speech. When he was able to continue, Hutchinson defended the plan.

“Let me emphasize that this need for a new facility is not a reflection of a change in incarceration policy. It is simply the fact that we have a growing state and that we are growing in projections at 1.4% over the next few years,” the governor said.

County jails are experiencing a record backup of state prisoners, which he said limits counties and cities in their capacity to enforce local laws. He believes a new prison would help alleviate the problem.

The governor also urged lawmakers to make future mobility a priority.

“Arkansas is in a unique position to lead in future technologies that will change our world,” Hutchinson said. “Today, I am challenging Arkansas to lead in this world of innovation by focusing on the future of advanced mobility. Yes, advanced mobility. This focus includes autonomous vehicles, upward mobility platforms, electric vehicles and modes of transportation that do not exist today but could be the dream of an Arkansas student right now.”

Part of prioritizing future mobility would be speeding up the process of creating electric charging stations across the state. Though the governor said Arkansas is scheduled to receive $54 million over the next five years from the federal government for electric charging station infrastructure, he called for this timeline to be accelerated by devoting state money to get it done more quickly.

Hutchinson announced the creation of the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility, which will act as an advisory council to identify state laws and regulations that are in the way of developing and enhancing autonomous vehicles, drone delivery and more. This council will make recommendations before the General Assembly next year.

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