Ark. lawmakers handed bill outlining $4.9B budget

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 18, 2013 at 9:18 pm •  Published: April 18, 2013
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers are considering boosting funding for public schools and Medicaid while also giving state employees a 2 percent cost-of-living raise, under a $4.9 billion budget proposal that legislative leaders unveiled Thursday.

The proposed budget is nearly identical to the budget that Gov. Mike Beebe recommended in November. Most of the funding increases would go toward filling a projected shortfall in the Medicaid program and toward the state's public schools.

State employees would get a 2 percent cost-of-living raise under the proposal. The House failed to pass a separate bill Wednesday that would have authorized cost-of-living increases for state judges and prosecutors.

The budget legislation, called the Revenue Stabilization Act, prioritizes spending based on expected revenue and is scheduled to go before the Joint Budget Committee on Friday. The Legislature is expected to take final votes on the budget Monday and Tuesday.

"It worked out very reasonably," said Sen. Larry Teague, the Democratic co-chair of the Joint Budget Committee. "It's been tweaked in some places, but it's about where we started."

Republican House Speaker Davy Carter also said he was satisfied with the budget proposal.

"What you see in 2014 is generally what we've been looking at all along," he said. "You could have a million different arrangements, but I think it's a reasonable budget."

Finalizing the state budget is the last major item of business that lawmakers are expected to consider before this year's session ends on Tuesday.