AP Interview: Carter wants more say on budget

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm •  Published: December 27, 2012
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"Groceries are high and I understand where the governor is coming from on his grocery tax proposal. On the other hand, there are some competing ideas to provide taxpayers with some relief that some would say have more of an economic job impact on the state," Carter said. "I don't know which ones we end up choosing. I think we go through the proess like we did two years ago."

But whether the state can afford any cuts is still uncertain. Beebe has said he proposed the triggered tax cut because he couldn't find room in the state's $4.6 billion budget for relief without hurting critical services. Carter said the big question that remains on tax cuts is how the state tackles its expected Medicaid shortfall.

Carter said he's unsure whether lawmakers can find common ground with Beebe on a proposal to expand Medicaid's eligibility under the federal health care law. Beebe backs the expansion, which would add 250,000 people to the program, but Republicans in general are opposed to the idea.

Carter said there may be room for a compromise that would allow for changes to the program that Republicans believe would save the state money, but said it depends on how much flexibility Arkansas will have. Federal officials already closed the door on one avenue for compromise when they told states that they couldn't opt for a partial expansion and still receive full federal funding for its first three years.

"Until I can be convinced that we can afford it, I'm going to be extremely hesitant to be able to support expansion," Carter said.

Carter also said he believes it's possible to fill the projected Medicaid shortfall without making cuts in services proposed by Beebe's administration, but wouldn't detail where the money would be found. The Department of Human Services has called for cuts in several areas to make up for the projected deficit. Beebe has said the savings from Medicaid expansion would help the state avoid the cuts that would affect more than 10,000 Arkansans in nursing homes.

"I don't think we have to make those decisions this session," he said. "I think there ought to be ways for everybody to stay pat where we are and plug those holes and then try to fix the problem going forward."

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Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo