Gov. Mike Beebe (D) offered a detailed impact of how Republican proposed budget cuts would affect certain state agencies.
The Governor has proposed a $4.72 billion state general revenue budget that allows for more funding for public schools and Medicaid, while making a half-million reduction in the Department of Corrections budget.
Legislative Republicans have proposed a smaller budget that takes $21 million from the Governor’s proposal. The GOP has suggested that 11 state agencies take a 3% across-the-board cut, $14 million be shifted from the Medicaid program but made up by surplus funds, and a restoration of the Corrections reduction.
House Minority Leader John Burris (R-Harrison) said that state agency directors should find the savings in their budgets to meet his caucus’s funding cuts. Gov. Beebe requested agencies to conduct a review last week.
Today (Feb. 21), Beebe’s office released a breakdown of the impact of the budget cuts under the Republican Caucus proposed budget. A full document of specific agencies can be found here, while the “miscellaneous agencies” category can be accessed at this link.
A few highlights from Beebe’s documents include:
- Reduction in funding for 12 vacant positions at the Department of Education
- Possible reduction in workforce of 39 employees in Department of Human Services administration
- Possible elimination of non-mandatory programs at DHS
- Possible layoffs of 15 firefighters at Forestry Commission
- Not filling 4 currently vacant positions at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission
- Cutting operational costs by 58% at AEDC’s business retention and expansion program
- Reduced advertising budget and operating hours at state parks
- Unspecified reductions in Health Department personnel at county health units
- Reduction in operating expenses in programs at Department of Environmental Quality, but no loss of meeting statutory or regulatory obligations
- 10 forensic scientists laid off at State Crime Lab
- Less funding for Rural Community Grant program
UPDATE: At a late morning press conference, Beebe said he had met with Republican leadership and felt there was room to debate the two budget plans.
“There’s nothing wrong with a good debate,” Beebe said. He said he hoped Republicans who support the plan would work through the normal budget process to affect the changes they’re seeking and he suggested that not all GOP caucus members were supportive of the Republican initiative based on conversations he has had with members.
The Governor said Medicaid budget shifts of $14 million were a “non-starter” issue for him.
Beebe also said that four state agency budget reductions were also “non-starters” for him. They included the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Forestry Commission, Health Department and Higher Education.
In total, the GOP reductions would impact those 4 state agency budgets by an estimated $3.8 million, according to Beebe’s calculations. He said he told Rep. Burris that the 7 other agencies recommended for cuts by Republicans may have merit.
“I told him there were a couple of areas where the explanations could be a little better,” said Beebe.