The House has wrapped up the state's fourth Fiscal Session by passing a balanced budget with increases in funding to some of the most urgent needs.
We began this session with discussion and debate on funding Arkansas Works. After that appropriation passed, it was clear the budget for the next year would not require any cuts to state agencies or increase taxes for Arkansans.
The $5.3 billion balanced budget we passed includes a 2.75% spending increase from last year.
The increases include:
· $23.7 million for education
· $88 million for traditional Medicaid and six months of funding for Arkansas Works
· $3.5 million for behavioral health programs
· $20 million for foster care programs within DHS
· $2 million for higher education grants
· $1.5 million for economic development
· $4 million for the Department of Correction
· $5.2 million for merit pay adjustment for state employees.
We also approved a fund transfer of $50 million from the state's surplus to the rainy day fund. And another $13.8 million will be diverted to the rainy day fund during the next fiscal year.
The rainy day fund is intended to be used for emergencies and any needs the Governor may see that cannot wait until the next session.
We plan to use $1 million from this fund to restore cuts that were made last year to library funding statewide. Another $1 million will restore funding to senior centers.
The Governor has also indicated he wants to use a portion of these funds for highways.
He announced on Friday that he will call the legislature back in for a special session to address highway funding on May 19. There are both short term and long term needs when it comes to our infrastructure. It will be up to us to decide if the long term needs should be addressed in this session or wait until the next Regular Session.
You can review the budget we recently passed on our website at www.arkansashouse.org In the meantime, we will continue to update you on our approach to improve Arkansas's highways.