LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel has rejected a lawmaker's proposal to set a side up to $100 million of the state's budget surplus to deal with a looming Medicaid shortfall.
LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel has rejected a lawmaker’s proposal to set a side up to $100 million of the state’s budget surplus to deal with a looming Medicaid shortfall.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate, in a procedural move, are to vote this afternoon on a bill to amend the Revenue Stabilization Act, the mechanism by which the Legislature sets the state budget spending priorities for the next fiscal year.
The amendment will then be referred to the Joint Budget Committee, which is expected to consider it and the $4.7 billion budget Wednesday and send the entire package back to the House and Senate for final approval.
Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, said she expects the fiscal session to end by Friday.
“We’re still on schedule,” she said.
During the Joint Budget Committee’s meeting today, the panel in a voice vote rejected a proposal by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, to transfer $40 million of the current surplus to the Medicaid Trust Fund and transfer 75 percent of next year’s surplus, up to $60 million, to the fund.
State Department of Human Services officials said last week the state Medicaid budget could see a shortfall as high as $400 million in fiscal 2014. Gov. Mike Beebe has said that any transfer from the surplus to Medicaid should happen during the regular session that starts next January, not the current fiscal session.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, spoke for the amendment, saying the “state is facing a potentially crippling budget item” and will need the money to help cover the Medicaid shortfall.
Sen. Percy Malone, D-Arkadelphia, said the amendment was not needed because the money was not obligated and it would be up to the Legislature to spend it how and when it saw fit.
“I don’t see any reason to restrict this at this time. The money is not going to be spent,” Malone said.
Richard Weiss, director of the state Department of Finance and Administration, spoke against the proposal, saying he was concerned that tying up the money now could cause problems if it became needed for other purposes.