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Transcript: Governor Asa Hutchinson on "Face the Nation," March 14, 2021

Arkansas governor expects vaccine acceptance to grow
Arkansas governor expects vaccine acceptance ... 06:07

The following is a transcript of an interview with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson that aired Sunday, March 14, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Despite demand for the vaccine outstripping supply nationally, Arkansas is one state that's expanding eligibility in order to use their supply. Governor Asa Hutchinson joins us from Little Rock this morning. Good morning to you, Governor. Before I get to COVID, I want to quickly ask you about politics. Your partner, Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, Co-Head of the National Governors Association, should he resign from his position?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: I'm going to- first of all, it's very important to take any allegations by the women who've come forward seriously. They have credibility. They need to be heard. I understand there's an investigation by the attorney general that should proceed. Beyond that, you know, he's a- the chairman of the NGA right now, selected by the Democrats. And so that's within their bailiwick to deal with that issue and the people of New York.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Governor, let me ask you what's happening in your state. Our CBS polling, as you heard at the top of the show, is- is reflecting a real partisan divide in terms of willingness to get the vaccine. Young Republicans, in particular, are resistant to it. Are you seeing that problem and how are you combating it?

GOV. HUTCHINSON: We are seeing that problem and the poll numbers are troubling because in Arkansas, it's a very pro-Trump state in terms of the last election. And- and so we see that resistance. Whenever we are opening up eligibility for the vaccine, we're moving through it very quickly because we're not having everybody sign up to take it. What we're doing to address it is having influencers who would need to broaden that to help shape the thinking. But as more and more people get the vaccine, they see it's a way to get back to more normal life. They're excited about it. They're optimistic. So, I see those numbers changing. Sometimes someone will not take the vaccine saying, "I just want to wait a little bit longer to make sure everything's OK." We're encouraging them not to do that. When it's your turn, take the vaccine. But at the same time, we're going to move through the eligibility and then we're going to have to come back and catch up because we'll probably be at a 50% rate. We need to get up to 70 to 80% acceptance rate to increase the immuni- immunization of the vaccine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Given that problem, why would you consider lifting the mask mandate at the end of the month?

GOV. HUTCHINSON: Well, because we need to continue to wear a mask, socially distance until we get the vaccine widely accepted, but you can do that two ways. One is by a mandate or you can do it by public common sense. And so I didn't want to have a jump off the bridge in one moment, so we have a ramp in which we want to see what our testing, our- our cases look like, our hospitalizations, positivity rate look like toward the end of the month. And we'll make a decision whether we can lift the mask mandate and turn it into guidance and common sense as we said. I think the time in this pandemic for heavy-handed restrictions and mandates are going by the wayside so people can make good judgments. And we expect that to happen even after March 31st if the mask mandate is lifted.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your state's going to get 4 billion dollars from this American Rescue Plan. Many of your constituents are going to take home these $1400 checks and thousands of dollars in tax credit. Isn't this good for your state?

GOV. HUTCHINSON: Well, there's many good parts of the bill, and that's important to remember. There's rental assistance there for people who need it. There's food assistance in there. There's also money in there for arts, humanities. Really across the board there's increase in spending. Some of the most important elements of it would be trying to recover the lost learning in our schools over this last pandemic year. I think we've done better because we didn't close our schools, but there's still lost learning we got to make up for. So there's great investments in there. I know your previous guests, you talked about why there's Republican opposition. Well, it's just simply too large. And for a state like Arkansas, we're going to be getting more money than we had in the last CARES Act funding. We have a balanced budget. We have a surplus. And the challenging thing is that while there's so many good things in this bill, they've given us a double whammy by saying, first of all, we're going to distribute the money to the states not based upon population, but based upon your unemployment rates. That cost us $390 million.


GOV. HUTCHINSON: And then another one is that they've said that you cannot have tax cuts and take this money. Well, we were planning on giving- reducing the sales tax on used cars, that is low income and middle income. And now we're worried about whether that's going to be prohibited under this bill. The language seems to indicate it is. So, while there's many good things about it, it is too large--


GOV. HUTCHINSON: --and we got to make sure the states have flexibility.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were a former Homeland Security official in the Bush administration. At the US border, right now, there are thousands of unaccompanied children in U.S. custody. Does the U.S. need to send them back or keep them here as the Biden administration's doing?

GOV. HUTCHINSON: Well, you've got to have a stricter border policy, or those- it's going to be a humanitarian crisis that will continue--


GOV. HUTCHINSON: --throughout this year. Unaccompanied minors is a risk to themselves, their families. So you've got to--


GOV. HUTCHINSON: --have a tougher policy so we can repatriate them, but care--


GOV. HUTCHINSON: --for them as they seek asylum or- or the help that they need.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We've got to leave it there, sir, because I have to get to this break. Thank you very much, Governor.

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