Over the course of the fiscal session, I have remained committed to passing a balanced general revenue budget that restrains spending, cuts waste and most importantly addresses a looming Medicaid shortfall recently given the price tag of nearly half a billion dollars.
That’s why on Thursday I chose to vote against Gov. Mike Beebe’s $4.7 billion budget which does nothing to fix the Medicaid shortfall that is threatening Arkansans. The majority in the House of Representatives passed the bill despite strong objections from Conservative lawmakers.
During our three weeks in session, the proposed budget alternative was never debated or allowed to come up for a vote. Our conservative balanced budget proposal would have trimmed $21 million from growth of the state budget, less than half a percent, and put those savings towards addressing our impending Medicaid shortfall.
Last week, the Department of Human Services (DHS) increased the projected shortfall in our state’s Medicaid program from $250 million to $400 million. When informed of this drastic growth, lawmakers proposed an amendment to Gov. Beebe’s budget bill which would have taken $40 million out of this year’s surplus funds and placed it in a Medicaid Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the amendment failed largely along party lines in the Joint Budget Committee.
One solution offered to address spending inefficiencies in the budget was an amendment that would have eliminated taxpayer funding for lawmakers’ dues to legislative clubs. Despite this effort, the majority demonstrated their unwillingness to compromise with conservative lawmakers and voted to protect this taxpayer-funded perk. Eliminating these dues payments would have saved our state $267,400 annually.
We were not elected to bury realities for the next legislature to dig up and fix. We were elected to work across party lines to identify solutions to the problems we all face as Arkansans.
I simply cannot vote for a budget that is balanced on the backs of those who rely on Medicaid and does little to curb spending growth. From day one of my term, I have fought to open up the traditionally closed-door budgeting process to hardworking Arkansas taxpayers. I will continue to spotlight how our state government spends your money and to propose new ideas to make government more efficient and effective. You deserve nothing less.
I am proud to serve you in the House of Representatives. Please contact me at 870-378-1434 or Linda.Collins-Smith@arkansashouse.org
Filed Under: Local Gov't
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