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Public Statements

Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Another Balanced Budget

Statement

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The 88th General Assembly concluded its Regular Session this past week, and Arkansas remains positioned to continue to set an example of fiscal responsibility for the rest of the nation. We're one of the only states to have come into our session without a budget shortfall. That advantage and our dedicated work allowed us to balance our budget while providing more tax relief to our citizens.

While so many of our sister states are responding to growing budget deficits with higher taxes and slashing cuts to critical services, this legislature approved a balanced budget and delivered a tax-cut package that will bring relief to Arkansas's working families. The state's general-revenue budget of $4.5 billion even allows for additional help in essential areas, enabling us to continue our drive toward excellence in public education and to ensure that our state prisons continue to keep dangerous criminals off the streets. It is a responsible budget that holds the line on state spending outside of those two critical areas.

I signed six new tax cuts into law, including an additional one-half-cent cut to the sales tax on groceries. This cut is the third we've made to this regressive tax since I first took office, and continues my promise to eliminate this tax in a measured and responsible way. In addition to this, I signed three other tax cuts specifically designed to keep more money in the hands of working families. These include raising the threshold on the application of used-car tax from a purchase price of $2,500 to $4,000; lowering the income tax on working single parents with children; and providing an annual sales-tax holiday for back-to-school purchases.

We also continued our efforts to provide targeted tax cuts that make Arkansas businesses more competitive and that spur economic development. To do this, we further cut the sales tax on utilities for manufacturers, and expanded tourism tax incentives for the Arkansas Delta.

In addition to keeping Arkansas on sound fiscal footing today, legislators took steps to save hundreds of millions of dollars in the future by passing a comprehensive prison-reform law. I have spent most of the past year talking about our need to be smart on crime and to find new ways to punish non-violent offenders, so that we can save prison beds for dangerous criminals. Spending for Arkansas's state prisons has been growing at an alarming rate for years, and we will closely watch how well these reforms work. I am cautiously optimistic that we will see our prison growth slow, and our communities become safer.

The end of this session does not mark the end of our work. Significant challenges lie ahead, particularly in Medicaid, where our state's ability to pay for the care for almost a million of our citizens is threatened by rising costs. I am determined to get health-care costs under control in Arkansas, and I believe we can do so by continuing to work together.

I want to thank the members of the General Assembly for their hard work this session. We've had some difficult challenges before us, but nearly all of our lawmakers tackled the issues with good-faith efforts and with little rancor. Even our most spirited debates have been aimed at protecting the best interests of Arkansas citizens and finding common ground. We've been able to reach compromise and continue our progress, and for that, we can call our work a success.


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