Arkansas Economy

Arkansas budget coffers overflowed with a surplus of nearly $300 million at the end of fiscal year 2019 but state tax officials are budgeting conservatively for the next 12 months because of a slowing economy and the elimination of one-time factors that boosted revenues over the past year.

For the 12-month period ended June 30, net available revenue rose a robust 7.8%, or $426.5 million, to $5.921 billion, and up $231.2 million, or 4.1%, above the budget forecast, according to Tuesday’s revenue report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Lockheed Martin Camden patriot missile
Lockheed Martin

Only days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson returned from a European trade mission where Lockheed Martin announced a multimillion-dollar deal to expand its operations in Camden, the Pentagon awarded the defense giant another blockbuster contract to manufacture warheads at its South Arkansas military industrial complex.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the expansion of the Lockheed Martin facility is "great news for South Arkansas."
Governor's Office

326 new jobs are to be created in south Arkansas as part of a Lockheed Martin expansion. At the Paris Air Show Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and representatives from the company announced the expansion of a plant in Camden. The governor sent a tweet about the announcement Monday morning.

With just two months left in the current fiscal year, Arkansas took in more revenue in April than was forecasted.

The monthly revenue report from the state Department of Finance and Administration shows Arkansas's net available revenue was just over $750 million in April, about 15 percent above the state's forecast.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

State lawmakers are proposing a $100 million tax cut for Arkansans making less than $22,200 per year. 

The cut would come from a three-part bill proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren on Thursday. Hendren said the bill, like last month's $97 million cut for the state's top earners, came about through recommendations by the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force. 

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

After passing the Arkansas House of Representatives last Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially signed his plan to cut taxes for the state's top earners into law on Tuesday. The third and final part of his signature tax cut plan, the law will lower the state's top marginal income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over a two-year span.

Hutchinson told reporters and Republican legislators gathered at the Capitol the $97 million plan will achieve its goal of making Arkansas more competitive to neighboring states.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

The Department of Finance and Administration says Arkansas was $13.1 million below projections for January, but the state's revenue is still up for the fiscal year. According to the DFA, the year-to-date net available general revenue is $3.4 billion, which is 4.1 percent higher than this time last year.

John Shelnutt, an economist with the department, said a drop in January revenue was forecasted, but not to this degree.

gas station
AAA

Motorists in Arkansas can expect the price of gas to hover just over two dollars per gallon, according to experts.

Mike Right, a spokesman for Triple A says this holiday season could be busier than most as far as travel is concerned.

"We're predicting that the Christmas, New Year's holiday period this year will set an all-time record. We're anticipating 112 million Americans will be on the highways, the airways, the railways over this holiday period and that's an increase over last year of 4.4 percent," said Right.

Stock Photo

Arkansas’s tax revenue is growing at a higher rate than experts expected this year.

The state’s November general revenue report from Arkansas’s Department of Finance and Administration shows a gross revenue increase of 7.5 percent compared to last year. That’s an increase of $34.4 million dollars, bringing the total revenue amount to $492.2 million dollars.

Ariel Martini / Flickr.com

If the casino ballot initiative passes in Arkansas on Tuesday, Delaware North, the parent company of Southland Gaming and Racing, will attempt to build a hotel and convention center in West Memphis, Delaware North Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs Jack McNeill told Talk Business & Politics. It would cost at least $200 million to build and would likely be located on the Southland property, he said.

Arkansas Children's Hospital
KATV-Channel 7

Arkansas Children’s Hospital CEO Marcy Doderer said one of the state’s largest health care systems will raise its minimum wage for entry level jobs to $14 per hour in the next fiscal year.

Doderer, appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, discussed this topic, the debate over pre-existing conditions, and a new legal initiative underway with Walmart and Legal Aid of Arkansas.

A study released Thursday by the Brookings Institution and the Walton Family Foundation looks at the economic health of a 19 state region in the middle of the country, including Arkansas.

"The State of the Heartland : Factbook 2018" uses socioeconomic factors to look at the how the area’s economy has been performing in recent years compared to the rest of the country. The full report can be found here.

Arkansas finance officials say the state's revenue last month remained above expectations and higher than the same month last year.

The Department of Finance and Administration on Tuesday said the state's net available revenue in September totaled $569.6 million, which is $50.7 million above the same month a year ago and $15.4 million above forecast. The state's revenue so far for the fiscal year that began July 1 is more than $1.4 billion, which is $33.4 million above forecast.

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Personal income growth in Arkansas accelerated ahead of most of the nation in the second quarter as oversized earnings from the Natural State’s volatile farming sector boosted contributions to the net state earnings.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock mayoral candidates Warwick Sabin, Glen Schwarz, Frank Scott Jr., Vincent Tolliver and Baker Kurrus met Monday evening, September 10 at Dee Brown Library in Little Rock for a forum with questions focused on economic opportunity.

This is the first in a series of five forums with candidates for Little Rock Mayor on topics including economic opportunity, crime, infrastructure and education.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday the state’s unemployment rate will be announced as 3.7 percent Friday and said he hopes disputes over trade policies end soon.

The state’s previous unemployment rate was 3.8 percent. Hutchinson preempted an announcement by the Department of Workforce Services by a day while speaking at an agricultural summit in Little Rock.

The Advancing American Agriculture: Ag Technology & the Law conference was hosted by the National Ag Law Center, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the Agriculture and Food Law Consortium.

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at Wednesday's announcement that the company will be expanding its south Arkansas facility.
Governor's Office

Arkansas’s ongoing efforts to grow the state’s aerospace and defense sector got a big boost Wednesday after Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne unveiled plans to expand the company’s solar-powered rocket motor manufacturing facility in East Camden.

In a press event at the Governor’s Conference room at the State Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Aerojet CEO and President Eileen Drake announced that the California defense contractor would invest more than $50 million to expand its sprawling south Arkansas armaments factory and hire 140 new workers over the next three years.

Arkadelphia
Nick Juhasz / Wikimedia Commons

The consequences of President Donald Trump's trade battle are hitting home in one rural Arkansas town.

Arkadelphia has been planning on a new paper mill and the hundreds of jobs it would create since the project was announced two years ago by a Chinese company.

But optimism has been giving way to concern in recent months amid Trump's escalating trade dispute with China.

Arkansas budget coffers were flush with new revenue entering fiscal year 2019 as strong sales tax collections and rise in car purchases reflected near across-the-board growth in most segments of the state’s economy, according to the monthly revenue report released Thursday by the Arkansas Department of Finance.

Hotel Pines
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A $35 million project is underway in Pine Bluff to restore the once-grand Hotel Pines. The 105-year-old structure at the corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street was designed by George Mann, the same architect who designed the Arkansas state Capitol and the Marion Hotel in Little Rock.

Lance Cheung/Flickr

Advocates for the hungry in Arkansas are hoping the U.S. Senate’s farm bill will not include House-approved work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  (SNAP). All four members of Arkansas’s House delegation voted for the $867 billion farm bill, which requires most able-bodied adults work 20 hours per week or enroll in job training in order to keep food benefits.

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Director Kathy Webb worries the work requirement will end up harming those that SNAP is supposed to benefit.

Mary Hightower / University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

With talk of tit-for-tat and trade wars dominating national business headlines, the impact of retaliatory tariffs on American products and commodities is giving some Arkansas agriculture officials pause.

WWW.JAREDFORARKANSAS.COM/

Democratic gubernatorial challenger Jared Henderson tells KUAR he is in favor of an initiative to raise Arkansas's minimum wage to $11 an hour. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has yet to comment and Libertarian Mark West opposes the ballot measure, as well as the concept of a minimum wage.

The ballot item would incrementally raise the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2022. It’s currently $8.50 an hour. Canvassers need to collect 67,887 valid signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

Henderson calls the gradual approach “thoughtful” and “responsible.”

Arkansas finance officials say a drop in corporate tax collections kept the state's revenue below expectations in May.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Monday that the state's net available revenue in May totaled $347.4 million, which is $8.1 million below the same month last year and $9.6 million below forecast. The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began on July 1 totaled $4.9 billion, which is $44.2 million above forecast.

jobs unemployment employment
www.purdue.edu

Three counties in Arkansas are hoping a new initiative will improve the employability of their populations. Monday at the Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the ACT Work Ready Communities Initiative.

Jefferson, Arkansas, and Grant counties have begun the process to receive a designation as ACT Work Ready Communities. Lou Ann Nisbett, president of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, initiated the tri-county effort.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Making communities in Arkansas more successful when competing with other states for industries and jobs is the goal of a new program announced Monday by Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The “Competitive Communities Initiative” is an evaluation process developed by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It’s intended to help cities identify assets that companies look for when selecting new host sites. Governor Hutchinson spoke to over 100 city leaders at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock about the need for the initiative.

Arkansas finance officials say higher than expected individual income tax collections in January helped push the state's revenue above expectations and above the same month last year.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Friday the state's net available revenue in January totaled $583.3 million, which is $47.3 million more than the same month last year and $41.7 million above forecast. The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1 is more than $3.2 billion, which is $65.4 million more than was forecast.

A greater share of Arkansans opted to join a union in 2017 than the year before with membership rates ticking up from 3.9 to 5.1 percent of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 62,000 Arkansans were represented in the workplace through a union; another 74,000 non-union employees work under contracts negotiated by unions.

Take a listen to the interview above about the state of organized labor in Arkansas with the AFL-CIO’s Jessica Akers Hughes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson presenting his proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 Tuesday to the Joint Budget Committee of the Arkansas Legislature.
Governor's Office / You Tube

Arkansas' governor is proposing a $5.6 billion budget that increases funding for the state's Medicaid program and sets aside surplus money for future tax cuts and highway needs.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday proposed increasing state spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1 by nearly $173 million. Most of that increase goes toward Medicaid. Hutchinson said the funding increase is lower than what was originally proposed for the program last year.

UAMS
UAMS

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences says it will lay off 258 workers and leave another 350 or so positions unfilled as it addresses a $30 million hole in its budget.

The university chancellor notified 10,900 employees Monday. The school said in a statement it could no longer use reserve money to ensure that it wouldn't exceed its $1.5 billion budget. Spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said the cuts will save $30 million in the rest of this fiscal year and about $60 million next year.

UAMS has employees in 73 of the state's 75 counties.

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