No one knows what goes on behind closed doors, until someone has the courage to force them open. During week one of the Fiscal Session, Republican lawmakers opened the doors of state government by giving the traditionally Democratic-controlled, behind the curtain state budgeting process a kick in the teeth.
Rather than blindly consenting to Gov. Mike Beebe’s budget, Republican lawmakers offered a more conservative state budget proposal which would be $21 million smaller than the Governor’s $4.72 billion general revenue budget for 2013.
House Concurrent Resolution 1008 was filed on Monday to allow a budget alternative to be considered by the majority-Democrat House Rules Committee, yet legislators across the aisle refused to consider our trimmer budget plan. During the Fiscal Session, a two-thirds vote is required to pass a resolution so that non-appropriation bills like the state budget, also known as the Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA), can be considered and voted on by the General Assembly.
Battles for efficiency in the way our state spends taxpayer money are battles well fought for the people of Arkansas. With the over half a million dollars recently discovered in one state agency to rescue the drowning state Forestry Commission from a budget shortfall, it’s clear there are meaningful spending reductions to be made, we just have to be willing to find them.
Our Republican budget proposal would reduce some state agency funding levels by 3 percent less than what the Governor has proposed. As a result, we’re asking agency directors to find where they can operate with less money. When Arkansas families tighten their belts, government bureaucrats need to as well.
Asking state agencies to do more with less not only ensures taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, but also helps our state prepare for the looming $250 million Medicaid shortfall projected for next fiscal year. Because roughly 25 percent of Arkansans are currently enrolled in Medicaid, with that number expected to grow due to President Obama’s health care law, we must be proactive in guaranteeing the money will be there when Arkansas families need it most.
Hardworking Arkansas taxpayers deserve a more responsible, transparent government, but the Democratic-controlled legislature is defiant to change. Both political parties should be given an opportunity to bring constructive ideas and input to the table so that we can reach an agreement and pass a bi-partisan budget that benefits the citizens of this state.
Moving forward, I will keep you updated on our budget proposal and how we are working to reduce spending and protect the benefits of Medicaid.
As I continue to serve you during the Fiscal Session, my focus remains on holding state government accountable to the taxpayers of Arkansas. Please contact me with any issues, questions or concerns you may have. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org