LITTLE ROCK — Asa Hutchinson was sworn in Tuesday as the 46th governor of Arkansas — and the state’s first Republican governor to serve with a GOP-controlled Legislature since the 19th century.

LITTLE ROCK — Asa Hutchinson was sworn in Tuesday as the 46th governor of Arkansas — and the state’s first Republican governor to serve with a GOP-controlled Legislature since the 19th century.


With his hand on a Bible held by his wife, Susan, Hutchinson was sworn in at 11 a.m. by Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hannah in the House Chamber at the state Capitol, where the House and Senate met jointly.


"It is a new day in Arkansas, and many of my newly elected fellow Republicans are reflections of that new day," Hutchinson said after taking the oath of office. "Well let me assure you, everyone in this room reflects that new day in Arkansas and is a part of our leadership team."


Hutchinson told legislators his "first order of business" is an income tax cut for middle-class Arkansans, which he said will be presented as legislation later this week.


He also said he will present a proposed budget before the end of the month and will give a speech on health care reform on Jan. 22. The fate of Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program known as the private option is expected to be one of the dominant issues of the session that began Monday.


"Please be patient and await action until I have the opportunity to lay out my ideas and what I hope that you will consider in terms of health care reform," Hutchinson said.


He also pledged to work with legislators to address prison overcrowding, both in the short term and the long term.


"To accomplish this we will need more space, but we will also need to invest in a more effective parole system to change behavior, and we will also need to rely on alternatives and we need to make sure that we have an effective re-entry program for those who are leaving prison and re-entering society and hoping to get a job," Hutchinson said.


Hutchinson urged lawmakers to put aside their differences and work together.


"If we search for the common ground, we realize quickly that our differences are smaller than we thought and our hearts are larger than we imagined," he said.


Hannah also administered the oath of office to the state’s other six newly elected or re-elected constitutional officers, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Secretary of State Mark Martin, Treasurer Dennis Milligan, Auditor Andrea Lea and Land Commissioner John Thurston, all Republicans.


Shortly after noon, the swearing-in ceremony was repeated on the Capitol steps in front of a crowd that included former Govs. David Pryor, Jim Guy Tucker and Mike Huckabee.


In a speech on the Capitol steps, Hutchinson mentioned the Jan. 7 attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Such attacks are reminders of the sacrifices necessary to maintain freedom and of Arkansas’ strong link to the rest of the world, he said.


Hutchinson said Arkansans must be ready to compete in a global marketplace.


"We can compete and win in this global marketplace by lowering our tax rates, starting with the middle class; by improving job skill training in our high schools and two-year colleges; by offering computer science in every high school in Arkansas; and by reducing the burden of unreasonable regulations on our businesses," he said.


Hutchinson, 64, is a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, 3rd District congressman, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


He defeated Democrat Mike Ross last year in the race to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who was barred by term limits from seeking a third term. Hutchinson previously ran for governor in 2006 and lost to Beebe.


Hutchinson’s Inauguration Day activities began with a prayer service at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock honoring him and the other constitutional officers. Speakers included three of Hutchinson’s current or former pastors: Gary Hollingsworth of Immanuel Baptist Church, Dale Thompson of the First Baptist Church of Fort Smith and Wes George of the First Baptist Church of Rogers.


"May I say to you, to all of our constitutional officers, in those moments that you have five minutes when no one is coming to you needing something, pause and just ask for wisdom, and know that there are a lot of other folks around this state praying for the very same thing for you," Hollingsworth said.


House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said Tuesday he thought Hutchinson’s speeches were "fantastic" and said he was encouraged by the timeline the governor laid out for introducing his tax proposal, his budget and his position on health care reform.


"I think it shows that he’s ready to get to work," he said.


State Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Insalaco issued a statement chiding Hutchinson for not having stated a position yet on the private option, which Insalaco said has provided health insurance to more than 200,000 working Arkansans and allowed rural hospitals to stay open.


"Arkansas Democrats continue to follow Gov. Hutchinson’s indecisiveness regarding the private option," Insalaco said. "We urge our new governor to look closely at the private option that has become a win-win for Arkansas."