LITTLE ROCK — The House and Senate on Thursday cleared the way for legislators to consider a budget for the next fiscal year.

LITTLE ROCK — The House and Senate on Thursday cleared the way for legislators to consider a budget for the next fiscal year.

The House, by a vote of 81-2, gave final approval to Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, which allows introduction of a bill to set spending priorities for the 2012-2013 budget cycle.

The Senate approved a matching resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 1004, 34-0. Approval of the budget resolutions in both chambers is necessary to consider the non-appropriation measure in the Legislature’s fiscal session.

Each required a two-thirds vote to pass. Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, told senators Thursday that a draft of the budget in bill form was expected to be completed overnight and sent to Joint Budget.

The proposal must be before the budget panel for three days before it can be considered. The Legislature’s swift action on the budget resolution ended a week of wrangling over a Republican alternative to trim millions of dollars from Gov. Mike Beebe’s $4.7 billion proposed budget.

Beebe, a Democrat, said earlier this week that a proposal by House Minority Leader John Burris, R-Harrison, for $21 million in cuts would idle dozens of workers and curtail state services. The governor said he could find less than $700,000 to trim from what he said was a conservative budget proposal in the spirit of cooperation. When Burris countered with $2.5 million in proposed cuts, Beebe said he could go no further.

Burris then voted for a budget resolution that passed the House on Wednesday and supported the Senate version that passed the House on Thursday.

He spoke in support of both measures on the House floor and said later there was no point in prolonging the fight.

“We’re not going to just plant our feet and be stubborn for no reason,” Burris told reporters. “The goal was to effect a policy change. If nothing else, I hope we highlighted some things that needed to be changed. But realistically, it’s not going to happen in this budget session.”

Republicans still have the option of raising their concerns as the budget bill is hammered out, he noted. Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, who voted against the Senate version of the budget resolution, said he would have preferred to continue the fight.

“We have a Medicaid crisis that we need to deal with, and so far I have not seen the governor want to budge or want to do anything with it at all,” Meeks said. “Until I see him willing to make some needed cuts to our state budget and prepare for the Medicaid crisis that we have looming next year, then to me the budget doesn’t need to go forward at all.”

House Speaker Robert S. Moore Jr. D-Arkansas City, told reporters the budget bill will be introduced in a form that looks much like the governor’s original balanced budget proposal.

He said the debate now goes “where I believe it probably should have been all along, and that is to Joint Budget, which we’ll do on Monday, and then on the House floor.”

Members’ proposed amendments to the bill will be considered, Moore said. Before the House and Senate met Thursday, Beebe told reporters he expected legislators to complete the budget process swiftly.

“They have good sense. They don’t want to be labeled like Congress as not being able to work together and get things done, and to their credit they’re on that path,” he said.

Also Thursday, the Senate approved SCR 4 by Sen. Percy Malone, D-Arkadelphia, which asks the Legislature to consider legislation that would give the state Parole Board authority to deny parole to people convicted of felony sex crimes. The vote was 33-0.

Because the measure is a non-appropriation request, it must also be approved with a two-thirds majority in the House before it can be drafted as a bill. Malone said that once drafted, the bill will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will probably be considered Tuesday.

Two other versions of the same proposal also have been filed, but Malone said his measure also seeks a study for ways to strengthen the Parole Board’s authority over sex offenders’ parole eligibility. He said sponsors of the other proposals support his bill.

“We need to see if the overall law needs to be changed to protect our children,” Malone said. “We’re going to study to see if we need to make recommendations or any other changes.”

Malone, Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, and Rep. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, filed measures at the beginning of the fiscal session in response to the board granting parole to David Kent Pierce after he served 18 months of a 10-year sentence.

The former church music minister admitted in 2009 to sexual misconduct with members of a youth choir in Benton. Some Parole Board members said later they did not have the authority to deny Pierce’s parole request because of a 1993 state law that took away the board’s discretion to deny parole to inmates except those convicted of certain offenses, including rape and murder.

The felony to which Pierce pleaded guilty in Saline County Circuit Court, sexual misconduct with a child, is not on the list.