» Subscribe Today!
More of what you want to know.
The Daily News
X

Forgot your password?
Skip Navigation LinksHome >
VOL. 129 | NO. 10 | Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Beebe Proposes $5 Billion Budget

ANDREW DEMILLO | Associated Press

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Comments ()

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' public schools and prisons would get funding boosts under a $5 billion budget plan Gov. Mike Beebe unveiled Tuesday. But his administration warned that the state could face a sizable hole in the budget if lawmakers follow through with a plan to halt an expansion of Medicaid.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration officials detailed Beebe's spending proposals as lawmakers opened budget hearings ahead of the legislative session that convenes Feb. 10 that will focus on the budget.

Beebe's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for $105.8 million in additional spending, with $65 million of that going toward the state's public schools. Beebe also proposed increases in funding for the prison system to address crowding as a result of the state overhauling its probation policies.

State budget officials, however, warned that $89 million of the state's budget is based on the state's "private option" plan to expand insurance coverage to low-income residents under the federal health care law. Under the private option plan, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income workers. The program was approved as an alternative to expanding Medicaid's enrollment under the federal health overhaul.

"If the private option weren't done, we would have to do a completely new budget," State Budget Administrator Brandon Sharp told members of the Joint Budget Committee.

The Medicaid plan sharply divided Republicans who control the Legislature last year, and opponents have said they'll push for its defunding during next month's session. The $89 million in savings comes primarily from reduced uncompensated care costs for the state.

Beebe, a Democrat, has warned lawmakers would need to either repeal a package of tax cuts approved last year or cut the budget if they don't continue the private option. The package includes capital gains and income tax reductions and is estimated to cost the state $85 million in the coming year under the budget proposal.

Rep. Duncan Baird, co-chairman of the budget committee, said the budget proposal may help define the private option debate but that the program will likely be judged on its overall performance.

"The dollars are important, but I think at the end of the day we're going to look at it in very broad terms," said Baird, R-Lowell, who supported the private option last year.

A lawmaker who opposed the private option acknowledged that defunding the expansion plan would affect the state's budget but said he believed the state could look at reductions elsewhere to make up for it.

"That money wasn't there when we grew government, and I think we'd be ok if we cut it back," said Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sign-Up For Our Free Email Edition
Get the news first with our daily email


 
Blog Get more from The Daily News
Blog News, Training & Events
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 72 218 10,440
MORTGAGES 91 293 13,620
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 43 2,687
BUILDING PERMITS 0 393 24,700
BANKRUPTCIES 62 184 10,076
BUSINESS LICENSES 25 62 3,798
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 90 338 14,895
MARRIAGE LICENSES 10 68 3,235

Weekly Edition

Issues | About

The Memphis News: Business, politics, and the public interest.