Fiscal Session Coming to a Close
BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
During the fourth week of the Fiscal Session the House gave final approval to the DHS appropriation. SB111 passed last Tuesday and the final version contains my negotiated amendments that restrict enrollment, add co-pays, eliminate several hundred government positions and bar requests for additional grants to promote Obamacare. Governor Beebe signed the bill into law on Friday, March 7.
Arkansas is projected to have approximately $120 million in surplus at the end of this fiscal year. I’m proud that this year we’ll put approximately $100 million of that surplus in reserve for next year and dedicate $21 million of the surplus to repaying county jails for housing state prisoners, matching grants for better access to broadband internet, breast health and opening an additional 200 desperately needed prison beds.
We plan to end the business of the fiscal session on Wednesday. Our final item of business will be to pass an amendment to the Revenue Stabilization Act which funds our state budget. This year’s RSA spends just over 5 billion dollars in state General Revenue, increases education spending by $65 million to comply with the Lakeview decision and decreases funds to UAMS and the Department of Health. The $9 million cut from UAMS and the Department of Health is being diverted to the Governor’s Rainy Day fund. The diversion is being made based on the assumption that Medicaid expansion will reduce costs to these agencies.
I continue to seek an open and transparent budget process for our state but the tradition of closed door budgeting survived again this year. You can learn more about my point of view on the Arkansas budget process here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/representative-nate-bell/arkansas-budget-process-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/10151834448274262
The entire RSA is available online at the House website at www.arkansashouse.org.
I appreciate the privilege of representing you at the Capitol.