LITTLE ROCK — Individual Arkansas lawmakers have approved more than 4,200 grants totaling more than $50 million over the past four years. Records obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette show the legislators approved the grants from their assigned shares of state surplus General Improvement Fund money.
The newspaper’s review of General Improvement Fund grants comes as federal authorities this year investigated kickback schemes involving about $600,000 of those grants. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and lawmakers halted the grants for this year as the investigations became public.
The Arkansas Supreme Court decided in October that the grant program didn’t meet state constitutional requirements. Since then, lawmakers have talked about whether and how to continue the grants.
Rison Mayor Vernon Dollar says the grants were “the lifeblood for us doing improvements that went above and beyond.”