Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said his Tuesday meeting with President Obama and Vice-president Biden regarding the “fiscal cliff” being debated in Washington, D.C. was an effort to promote compromise.
Beebe was part of a bipartisan group of 6 Governors who met at the White House for nearly 90 minutes to discuss the impact of certain decisions on state budgets and economies.
“Our message was two-fold. First, the fiscal cliff is not where we want to go,” Beebe said. “Secondly, we all know we all need to share in the sacrifice. We’re not going to be hypocritical. We’re willing to do our part.”
Beebe was reluctant to share his personal thoughts on specific changes being debated that could impact Arkansas’ budget. He told reporters on Wednesday that he still felt he was representing all Governors from the delegation that met with Obama and Biden on Tuesday.
However, he did say that Arkansas and other states should not be penalized disproportionately regarding any federal solution that gets brokered. Beebe also emphasized that cost-shifting from the federal government to the states would be detrimental, and he suggested that the feds need to be cognizant that certain budget-cutting measures could conflict with court decisions making their implementation problematic.
“Governors solve problems. Congress just votes. We have to take those votes and make them work,” said Beebe.
Currently if Congress and the White House don’t hammer out a compromise, a previously approved agreement of major tax hikes and drastic spending cuts will go into effect at year’s end.
Beebe warned that those changes would hurt state and local governments through changes such as altering tax breaks and could lead to significant layoffs triggering another recession.
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration provided a breakdown of how cuts could impact state government programs.
Grants to local education agencies would lose $11.9 million in the next fiscal year. Special education grant funding would be sliced by $8.55 million, while Head Start funding would lose $5.76 million.
Women, infants and children (WIC) program funding would be cut by $5.27 million. All of the projected Arkansas cuts can be viewed at this link.
He added that he expected to remain in contact with administration officials and the state’s Congressional delegation to offer advice on how suggestions might help or hurt Arkansas.
On a side note, Beebe said he was surprised by the UA pick of Bret Bielema as football coach, but he was encouraged by Bielema’s track record and expected him to do well in Arkansas.
He said he was “very disappointed” by ASU coach Gus Malzahn’s departure to Auburn. Beebe said he was a “very good coach” and thought ASU would rebound quickly to fill the slot.