House Republicans have offered additional cuts to Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposed budget that will reduce state spending by another $21 million.
House Minority Leader Rep. John Burris (R-Harrison) tells Talk Business the cuts are doable and necessary with looming increases in the state’s Medicaid budget.
The $21 million in revenue cuts would affect 11 state agencies, in effect, reducing their administrative spending levels by three percent. The agencies include:
- Department of Education
- Department of Human Services – Aging and Adult Services & Grants
- Heritage Department
- Agriculture Department
- Labor Department
- Higher Education
- Economic Development
- Parks and Tourism
- Department of Environmental Quality
- Miscellaneous Agencies
Burris said the GOP has also proposed restoring some funding at the Department of Community Corrections. They also are offering to reduce a funding request for Medicaid by about two percent and using roughly $14 million in one-time money from the budget surplus to allow funding to meet the Governor’s recommendation.
“The reason for that is because we think we can work over the next year and hopefully curb some of that projected growth in cost to where it doesn’t have to be added to the base. We have the money in the bank now,” Burris said in reference to a $72.2 million surplus.
Overall, the spending recommendations would lower state general revenue needs from $4.727 billion in the Govrenor’s balanced budget proposal to $4.706 billion in the GOP budget.
Burris said the Governor was receptive to the changes proposed, but asked for time to review them. Burris said that the alternatives were a by-product of term limits, two-party politics, and the economy. He also added that a number of recent financial “mini-crises,” like the Forestry Commission woes, was a catalyst for the negotiations.
“I think the legislature is kind of adjusting to this part-time era of term limits. And the more open and more transparent, the more involved in the process we can be the better,” he said. “I think this is about front-end communication to avoid back-end chaos.”