Posts Tagged ‘state budget’
A term-limited state House member says term limits has left the Legislature bereft of institutional memory and with lawmakers ill-equipped to represent their constituents.
Three-term Republican Jim Medley of Fort Smith told reporters today he’s frustrated by what he has seen from fellow legislators in recent budget hearings.
“I’ve been going to these various committee hearings, and I just don’t see enough questioning of the budget and what we’re doing. It’s like, ‘Roll over and go with the flow,’” he said.
Arkansas’ term-limits law is one of the most restrictive in the country, limiting state senators to two four-year terms and state representatives to three two-year terms. Medley says the frequent turnover hinders the Legislature’s ability to be a watchdog on public spending and a champion of worthwhile programs.
He spoke to reporters after a budget hearing in which lawmakers rejected his proposal to offset federal spending cuts by providing $598,000 in state money for the Arkansas Department of Education’s school-based mental health program.
He expressed regret that a former El Dorado legislator known for his expertise on educational matters over more than 30 years in office was term-limited out of the Legislature two years ago.
“If he were still a legislator, I can guarantee you Jodie Mahony would be standing up for this,” Medley said.
A nonprofit child advocacy group gave a mixed review today to Gov. Mike Beebe’s balanced budget proposal.
The $4.5 billion proposed budget for the next fiscal year, unveiled this morning, calls for reducing the state’s sales tax on groceries from 3 cents to 2 cents. Beebe also is proposing setting aside about $146 million from the General Improvement Fund as one-time money for state needs, including prisons, Medicaid and the Department of Human Services.
“Gov. Mike Beebe said he was committed to improving the child welfare and children’s mental health systems, and his budget priorities reflect his commitment on these issues,” said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, in a statement.
Huddleston said investing in a rainy day fund would be critical in preventing cuts to the Department of Human Services in the event of a severe economic downturn.
“On the flip side, we are disappointed that the budget does not address two major economic issues facing working families: the lack of health care coverage and the lack of access to subsidized child care,” he said.
Huddleston also questioned whether a 1-cent cut to the grocery tax might be too large given the current economic climate. A smaller cut would allow room for tax relief targeted more toward low-income families, such as an earned-income tax credit or fixing a flaw in the state income tax that penalizes low-income single parents, he said.
Beebe said today he usually considers it bad policy to use one-time money for ongoing programs, but in this case he felt it was necessary. He made the proposal even though some advisers in his administration thought it was a bad idea, he said.
Storm clouds could be brewing over Arkansas’ economy, according to Gov. Mike Beebe.
Beebe said today he believes the state needs a rainy day fund to prepare for possible economic hard times.
“We are looking at a forecast where it looks like we are going to be hit by the national economy,” Beebe said on his monthly call-in program on the Arkansas Radio Network.
“If we are hit by the national economy, if you don’t have a rainy day fund, if you don’t have some of that money accumulated and put back to be able to meet essential services, whether it’s keeping prisoners in the prison, whether it’s keeping folks in the nursing home or whether it’s paying for colleges and universities, then you’ve got to do one of two things: You’ve either got to raise taxes or conversely you’ve got to cut those services out, because we can’t have a deficit,” Beebe said.
The state constitution requires that state expenditures not exceed revenues. Beebe is scheduled to present his balanced budget proposal on Nov. 13.
Gov. Mike Beebe has decided to postpone a decision on whether to restore any money previously cut from the state budget, citing uncertainty about the impact of today’s stock market plunge.
On Friday Beebe said he would consider over the weekend whether a jump in state revenues would allow the state to restore any of the $107 million that state finance officials cut from the budget at the start of the current fiscal year. This afternoon, Beebe said concern about the national economy prompted him to delay making a decision.
“Things have gone south today in New York and across the world. The Dow is down over 600 now. It’s below 10,000 for the first time since, what, 2003 I guess it is. … We want to watch that for a day or two,” Beebe said during a luncheon address to the Arkansas Association of Public Universities.
By 3:10 p.m., the Dow Jones Industrial Average had rebounded somewhat and was down 370 points.
Higher education was one of the areas hardest hit by this year’s budget cuts. Beebe offered his assurance that restorations will happen if the economy allows.
“If what’s happened today is not long-term and does not directly affect the progress that we’re currently making in Arkansas, you can rest assured we will, as quickly as we reasonably can, make some partial restorations,” he said.
Gov. Mike Beebe had good news today for the state agencies that were hardest hit by budget cuts this year.
Beebe said he will consider whether a jump in state revenues will allow some of those slashed funds to be restored.
“We’re going to look over the weekend and see whether or not we make any adjustments on that revenue flow and restore some of the cuts,” Beebe said on “Ask the Governor,” his monthly call-in program on the Arkansas Radio Network.
Last spring, state finance officials cut $107 million from the state’s budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Officials announced Thursday that net available general revenues totaled $481.4 million last month, a $28.4 million increase from September 2007 collections and $24.4 million above forecast for the month.
Beebe said he will consider boosting funds for colleges and universities, the Arkansas State Police, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Correction.