Audio – Senator Keith Ingram Reporting News From 91st General Assembly
March 14th, 2018 • News

March 14,2018

  • The fiscal session has officially adjourned, and state government now has a balanced budget for next year.
  • It was a productive session. Although there was disagreement on a few issues, that’s to be expected whenever 135 legislators get together to establish public policy.
  • The thing to remember is that the legislature funded essential state services such as education, health care and law enforcement. And thanks to the Revenue Stabilization Act, we did it without going into debt.
  • You can think of the Arkansas balanced budget act as a list of priorities. All state agency spending requests are put into categories, and some are more important than others.
  • If the economy slows down, state government must cut spending. Those spending cuts are made according to the priorities listed in the Revenue Stabilization Act.
  • If the economy grows, some state agencies will have authority to increase spending. For example, in the appropriation for the Department of Community Correction we authorized 30 new positions for parole officers. Those officers will not be hired until funding is available. It may take a couple of years, but it was an important step toward better law enforcement in the long term. If we’re serious about reducing crime rates, we have to reduce caseloads for probation officers and parole officers.
  • Fortunately, the economy has been healthy and revenues have gone up. Most of the growth in state revenue will go to the state Medicaid program, with public schools, higher education, prisons and highways getting smaller increases.
  • Next year’s budget should produce a surplus of about $64 million. About $48 million will go into a rainy day fund, and $16 million will go to the Transportation Department to match federal dollars. I would have preferred a more serious commitment to our highways. Although $16 million dollars is a lot of money, it is a one-time fix for a problem that requires a long-term investment.
  • With the completion of the 2018 fiscal session, legislators now turn their focus to a short special session. Lawmakers will consider a handful of bills, and we hope to finish it by the end of the week. I’ll keep you posted.
      Click to Listen - Audio Recording from March 14, 2018