Feb 14, 2022 - News

Arkansas lawmakers to kick off fiscal session

Arkansas State Capitol building.
Arkansas State Capitol building. Photo: Don & Melinda Crawford via Getty Images

Flush with cash, the Arkansas General Assembly today begins the budget process for fiscal 2023.

Why it matters: The budget guides how taxpayers' money will be spent to support education, human services, infrastructure and public safety through June 2023.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette there will be an estimated $500 million surplus at the end of fiscal 2022, which is June 30.

Quick take: Some key points to be aware of as the session gets underway:

  1. Hutchinson has proposed a budget of $6.04 billion for fiscal 2023, $194.6 million higher than fiscal 2022. Most of the increase would be for public schools and human services programs, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
  2. The proposal leaves a $174.4 million surplus at the end of fiscal 2023.
  3. Last week Hutchinson announced his support to spend between $60–$100 million from state surplus funds to add nearly 500 beds to the men's prison in Calico Rock.

Plus: Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) has said he plans to file a resolution to Arkansas' latest abortion law, Act 309 of 2021. The resolution would be similar to the Texas law enacted last year that allows private citizens to enforce an abortion law through lawsuits.

  • And Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) is working on legislation to effectively withhold some state funding from public schools that require students to wear masks.

Context: Arkansas lawmakers convene in even-numbered years for a fiscal session focused on appropriations and in odd-numbered years for a regular session to consider all bills.

  • During a fiscal session, non-appropriation bills require a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to be considered.
  • Garner said he's working to make his proposal germane to appropriations so it would automatically be considered, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Flashback: Arkansas started fiscal 2022 on July 1 with a surplus of nearly $1 billion.

  • Following a special session in December, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the largest tax cut in Arkansas history, reducing state income tax from 5.9% to 4.9% by 2025.
  • Some lawmakers, including Rapert, wanted to extend that session to consider legislation on Texas-style abortion bills and banning critical race theory from being taught in public schools.
  • Proposals to extend the session did not pass.

What we're watching: Gov. Asa Hutchinson will give the annual State of the State Address in the House Chamber today at 12:30pm.

Go deeper: Read the most recent bills filed by Arkansas lawmakers.

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