BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
Last week, the Joint Budget Committee began budget hearings in anticipation of the impending fiscal session. The hearings opened with a presentation by the Department of Finance and Administration who presented the Governor’s revenue forecast for the next fiscal year and the Governor’s budget proposal. The revenue forecast predicts a 2% growth in collections by the state. There is also a $126 million un-appropriated surplus remaining from FY2013.
Gov. Beebe’s budget proposal for FY2015 would increase state spending by $105 million. His proposal includes $65.4 million for public schools and increases per student foundation funding from $6,393 to $6,521 for the upcoming school year.
The proposed budget also includes an increase designed to address prison overcrowding. $7 million would be devoted to increasing county-jail reimbursements and an additional $3 million would go to the Department of Correction to make 300 more prison beds available.
The decision to re-appropriate the Medicaid expansion for FY2015 will be addressed in the upcoming Fiscal Session. The Joint Budget Committee is expected to hear testimony from the Department of Human Services on the impacts of expanded Medicaid in coming days.
Last week began our pre-filing period for the Fiscal Session. This means members can begin filing appropriation bills and resolutions.
The Fiscal Session formally convenes on February 10.
The General Revenue Forecast and the Governor’s Proposed Budget are posted on the official House website www.arkansashouse.org.
I appreciate all of the comments and feedback regarding the upcoming committee meetings in Mena regarding the Queen Wilhelmina State Park renovation project.
The meeting schedule and location have now been set. On January 30 we will meet at the Old Armory in downtown Mena at 1:30 PM. An onsite meeting and tour of the project will be held the following morning at 9:00 AM at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park office. The public is invited to attend.