Yesterday, House Minority Leader John Burris laid out a Republican proposal to cut $21 million from the budget as originally submitted by Gov. Mike Beebe. The cuts are directed at 11 state agencies where Republicans see the opportunity to slice around three percent from their budget.
Burris appeared on KARN Newsradio with Dave Elswick to explain the Republican’s proposal.
Burris explained that Republicans looked first at agencies which were operating at levels with consistent “turnback funds.” These are funds which are budgeted for an agency and then turned back to state general revenue if left unspent. These turnback funds are often used as a budget cushion against unexpected drops in revenue or unforeseen budget needs. Republicans also relied on “individual members’ experiences” with the various agencies as well as some specific ideas.
Burris said he is counting on each agency director’s knowledge to find the specific places where their budget can be trimmed, but feels confident the savings can be found.
“It is not really the job of the legislature to find these cuts,” said Burris. “We believe they can do it with 3 percent less, and that is what we are asking them to do.”
He also explained that the budget process is in the middle of undergoing changes and should prepare for more cuts in the future with the expected increased need for state funding of Medicaid.
“We are not ready to even talk about tax increases in the next session,” said Burris. “We want to send a message to state agencies to start tightening your belt because Medicaid is about to cost us a big buck.”
Gov. Beebe said today that he is looking over the Republicans’ proposal and getting feedback from the agency heads if the cuts are possible.
“I had a good conversation with the governor,” said Burris, who said he is optimistic he will be receptive to the cuts. “This is a serious list to save money.”
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Burris will be a guest on this week’s edition of Talk Business with Roby Brock. So will Senate Democratic Majority Leader Robert Thompson. The show airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. on Fox 16 in Little Rock and on NPR stations in Little Rock, Fayetteville and Jonesboro.