The 2018 Fiscal Session is now winding to a close. In the final week, members voted on legislation detailing the state budget for the next fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on July 1, 2018.
The $5.6 billion balanced budget includes a $172.8 million, or 3.1% increase, in spending from the current fiscal year.
The increases in spending are as follows:
· $1.3 million for the public school fund
· $3.5 million for the Department of Correction
· $1.7 million for the Department of Community Correction
· $12 million for 2 and 4 year colleges showing productivity in student retention and achievement
· $7.3 million for foster care
· $4 million for county jail reimbursements
· $8 million for performance raises for state employees
· $137 million for traditional Medicaid and Arkansas Works
The majority of the Medicaid increase is directed to traditional Medicaid. There are close to 700,000 Arkansans on traditional Medicaid, most of the recipients are children. There are approximately 285,000 Arkansans on Arkansas Works (Medicaid Expansion). The federal reimbursement rates for both programs are decreasing in the next fiscal year.
Before we took a vote on the Medicaid appropriation, we learned that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the state’s request to implement a work requirement for Arkansas Works enrollees.
Arkansas Works enrollees who are 19 to 49 years old will be subject to the work requirement. The requirement will be phased in on the 30-49 year-olds first over a four-month period beginning this June. Individuals subject to the requirement must report 80 hours of work activity every month or show that they are exempt. A work activity can include job training, job searching, school, health education classes, or volunteering/community engagement. Activity must be reported online.
There are several exemptions including for those who are medically frail, going to school full time, or those caring for young children in the home.
The House will adjourn Sine Die on Monday, March 12. Upon adjournment, members will elect the Speaker-designate to serve as Speaker in the 92nd General Assembly.
The Governor has indicated he will call for a special session to address issues that need immediate attention. We will update you on the developments.