Our most recent forecast shows revenues are more than $70 million above levels this time last year. That is a 4.3 percent increase. Arkansas compares with most other states this year where fiscal conditions continue to improve and outpace projections.

So what does this mean for you? Well, it could have an impact on services the state provides or future tax reductions. In the last legislative session, we passed a $100 million tax cut package impacting everything from income taxes to taxes specifically for the agriculture industry.

We are rapidly approaching that time of year where legislators once again begin to look at the needs of the state budget. Beginning Jan. 14, the legislature will hold a series of meetings designed to begin the process of outlining a budget for the next fiscal year.

This prepares members for the Fiscal Session which will begin on Feb. 10. Fiscal sessions by law are set to last 30 days, so members work weeks in advance drafting appropriation measures in order to ensure our sessions are brief.

Budget hearings will begin with the Department of Finance and Administration presenting its annual forecast and recommendations by the Governor. After that, we will begin reviewing budgets for all of our colleges and universities.

Then the Joint Budget Committee along with Legislative Council will review budgets for all 220 state boards, commissions and agencies. The agendas have been drafted and we have posted those on our website. We have also posted links to agency budget summaries and previous expenditure history. Those can be found at www.arkansashouse.org

Currently, 87 cents of every general revenue tax dollar is spent on education, health and human services. Another 9 cents of every dollar is spent on criminal justice which includes State Police, the crime lab, and our correctional institutions and programs.

While budget hearings typically don’t attract the kind of attention we might receive when we debate hot button issues, they are none the less equally as important. By law we must pass a balanced budget every year. Where we devote the most funding is directly related to our priorities as a state. Education has been and will continue to receive the most funding. All of the hearings will be held in the MAC building located behind the Capitol. The public is welcome to attend. And we will continue to update you on the process.