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Nora Ranney on April 27, 2010 - 10:53am
The Fiscal Session of the 87th General Assembly convened on Monday, February 8, 2010, recessing the state’s first-ever fiscal session after passing bills determining lottery scholarship amounts for students and setting priorities for state spending for the next fiscal year.
Gov. Mike Beebe proposed a $4.5 billion budget restoring most of the $206 million in recent budget cuts while increasing spending by $176 million next fiscal year. This is 4 percent higher than the previous year, but follows two years of budget declines, so the new budget is basically returning the state to the level in fiscal year 2008. Some legislators worried that the budget failed to address rising costs in the Medicaid budget, although a legal settlement and funds from the federal government have eased some of those concerns.
The Governor did veto $1.6 million in appropriations for legislative redistricting because the funds would have been transferred away the the operation of courts and other executive branch offices.
Higher Education: In one of the few non-appropriation bills approved, HB1163 will set state lottery-funded scholarships at $5,000 for four-year college students and $2,500 for students attending two-year institutions. Some state university students can rest more easily; for the first time in 24 years, the University of Arkansas did not raise tuition for students at its Fayetteville campus — considered just “the right precedent for a state land-grant university to set.”
Prison Budget Transparency: With a growing inmate population driving corrections officials to request millions of dollars to build more prison space and operating existing prisons with stretched resources, the legislature enacted a number of transparency measures, including HB1094, for the correction budget to help identify areas to reduce costs and improve systems for greater efficiency. Legislators have been meeting with the Governor and non-profit organizations to discuss longer range reforms in sentencing laws and other alternatives for 2011 to reduce the prison population.
Arkansas Citizens First Congress - Community Guide to 2009 Session/Report Card
Bureau of Legislative Research - 2009 Policy Overview
Progressive States Network - 2009 Session Roundup
Arkansas Legislature - Controlling the Increasing Cost Of Corrections
Arkansas Gazette - Hand It Over — Tuitions Swell Again
Office of Management and Budget - The Budget and Arkansas