Months in the making, the Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA) cleared the full House of Representatives as lawmakers put a stamp of approval on the state’s $4.6 billion balanced budget bill.
House members also approved a General Improvement Fund (GIF) bill that contains up to $40 million in discretionary spending and a controversial Insurance Department budget bill that had failed in three previous votes.
The RSA passed with 78 votes in favor and 15 against. Some members hoped that the state’s balanced budget would be cut further to allow for additional tax cuts despite the 6 tax relief measures that were passed.
"State job growth has gone up way too much," said Rep. Bryan King (R-Green Forrest). "I feel like we can do better with a budget that cuts more."
Joint Budget Co-chair Rep. Kathy Webb (D-Little Rock) said that the RSA was the result of months-long hearings and bipartisan compromise.
"In looking at other states around us, Arkansas ranks very well in comparison," said Webb. "It’s not perfect but it’s a very good bill."
The General Improvement Fund appropriation was also approved by the House on a 91-0 vote. GIF is discretionary money collected from excess agency balances and interest collected by the state at the end of the fiscal year. The GIF bill allows for up to $40 million in discretionary spending by the Senate and Gov. Mike Beebe. House members chose to bypass GIF money this session.
The biggest vote of the day came on HB 1226, the state Insurance Department bill, which has failed to receive 75 votes on three different votes during the past two days. Mainly GOP representatives have been troubled by a $1 million federal grant for state implementation of federal health care reform that is in the bill.
As part of a House compromise, leaders agreed to relinquish on the vote holding up the Insurance Department budget after Rep. Fred Allen (D-Little Rock) allowed his health insurance exchange legislation, HB 2138, to be parked in interim study. The $1 million line-item remains in the Insurance Department appropriation measure.
The Insurance Department budget bill passed 83-7 on its fourth try.