Arkansas lawmakers will meet on Monday, Feb. 13, at noon in the state capitol to convene the second fiscal session.
Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is scheduled to talk to legislators in a joint session of the Arkansas General Assembly at 12:30 p.m.
Lawmakers will have 30 days, with a possible 15-day extension, to conduct their work on the FY 2013 budget, a document that will total around $4.6 billion in state tax revenue and nearly $24 billion when combined with federal funds.
While the focus will be on fiscal issues — such as education, Medicaid and prison funding — there will be a number of holes to fill in the current fiscal year’s budget. Beebe has recommended several supplemental appropriations to shore up budget shortfalls including:
- $10 million for public employees’ merit adjustment fund
- $9 million to the Arkansas Department of Corrections for overtime and holiday pay
- $3.8 million for the State Hospital for compliance and regulations standards
- $2.7 million request for the financially troubled Arkansas Forestry Commission
- $2 million to the Arkansas Department of Corrections for back-pay for state inmates housed in county jails
- $1.8 million to the Arkansas Department of Corrections to reduce case-load assignments
- $1.4 million to the Arkansas Department of Corrections to repair an inmate housing facility on Roosevelt Road in east Little Rock.
- $130,000 to replenish the Governor’s Emergency Fund, which has been depleted for several immediate needs
- $110,000 for Drug Court funding
- $35,000 to the Arkansas Parole Board
Since Beebe’s supplemental appropriation requests were submitted, funding for rural schools and roads as well as a shortfall in funding at the Arkansas Health Department have surfaced.
The legislature could also take up non-budget measures, if two-thirds of the General Assembly approve consideration. Some potential non-budget resolutions include changing the law regarding parole guidelines for sex offenders, repealing a tax break for the trucking industry, and considering a national debt relief amendment.
Budget dealmakers will have to wrestle with a number of variables, including looming federal budget cuts, state Medicaid reform efforts, potential tax exemption repeals, and shoring up funding for Arkansas’ trial courts.
By session’s end, members of the Arkansas House of Representatives will select their choice for incoming Speaker of the House. State Reps. Terry Rice (R-Waldron) and Darrin Williams (D-Little Rock) are both expected to vie for the 2013 top leadership post.