When we craft our state budget, we do so knowing it reflects our priorities.
The House wrapped up this week by passing a budget that devotes nearly half of our revenue to education. It includes increases in spending for health care, foster care, and our criminal justice system.
The $5.49 billion budget includes an increase of $163 million (3.1%) in spending from the current fiscal year.
Of that increase, $112.8 million is directed to the Department of Human Services (DHS). Included in the DHS increase is $75 million directed to match federal Medicaid funding. It also includes a $26 million increase for foster care and $4.5 million is directed to fund the mental health crises stabilization centers which were created in the criminal justice reform measure passed earlier in the session.
In education, the budget directs a $3 million increase for Pre-K funding and $2.4 for computer science courses.
Other increases include funding for the Department of Correction and the Department of Community Correction.
We also passed HB1830 which specifies the distribution of surplus funds, also called the Rainy Day Fund.
The distribution includes:
· $90 million to Medicaid. ($70 million for Fiscal Year ‘18, $20 million for Fiscal Year ‘19)
· $10 million to the Department of Correction.
· $30 million to Arkansas Economic Development Commission for economic development incentives.
· $60 million for school facilities
· $20 million to help match federal highway grants.
The legislature has already spent $14 million in this fund to assist needs in foster care.
In this session, the General Assembly has cut taxes, reformed our criminal justice system, and opened doors to higher education for more Arkansans.
We have passed legislation to give our military retirees a tax cut and provide our National Guard with a scholarship.
We have strengthened domestic violence laws, implemented regulation and safety measures for the use of medical marijuana, and established programs to spur economic development.
The Governor has signed more than 750 pieces of legislation into law. More bills are now heading to his desk as we wrap up the session.
We will continue to update you during the interim and provide you with more information on the bills that have passed in recent weeks.