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Arkansas lawmakers give initial approval of $6 billion budget

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Arkansas Legislature
Rep. Lane Jean, R-Magnolia, addresses fellow House members on Monday ahead of a vote on the governor's proposed $6 billion state budget.

Arkansas lawmakers have nearly completed the approval of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $6 billion state budget proposal. The members of the Arkansas House and Senate voted Monday to approve identical versions of the state’s Revenue Stabilization Act.

The budget will include funding for higher education, the state's workforce, and will help address a backlog in people seeking services for those with disabilities. The fiscal year begins on July 1.

Republican Rep. Lane Jean, who serves as co-chair of the Joint Budget Committee, said on the House floor that the legislature has only increased the county jail reimbursement once in the last 16 years. The rate would go from $32 to $40 per inmate.

“We’ve doubled that this session which I think our county jails and county personnel would appreciate.” Jean said.

He said the budget has an increase of $175 million dollars, which is 2.99% more than the previous year. Several different key aspects are added.

“The one time schedules, the $150 million for various projects, the new prison [expansion in Calico Rock], the $30 million for [the Arkansas School for the Blind] is now in this budget instead of a one time deal.” Jean explained.

Numerous bills for state agencies, such as the Department of Transformation and Shared Services and the Commerce Department, have been approved by the State lawmakers.

Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the state budget on Tuesday with Gov. Hutchinson then signing it into law.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.