LITTLE ROCK — The private option got new life in the Senate when Sen. Jane English, who vote against the measure last spring, said she would vote for it.

LITTLE ROCK — The private option got new life in the Senate when Sen. Jane English, who vote against the measure last spring, said she would vote for it.


The House was expected to vote on the measure Tuesday, and "whether or not it’s specifically today, I am 100 percent confident that the bill will pass both chambers," said House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot.


In return for her vote, English said she has received support for restructuring work force education and training in Arkansas from Gov. Mike Beebe and legislators.


"Yes, I am switching," English told Talk Business. "And I have the undying support of the governor and the cabinet to make something happen (in jobs training) to make changes. There isn’t a single cabinet person who isn’t on board with this."


English’s switch was first reported by political columnist John Brummett.


Her vote now gives the Senate the 27-vote supermajority needed to pass the private option, the state’s alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Crafted last year by Republican lawmakers and Beebe, a Democrat, the program uses federal Medicaid funds to subsidize private insurance coverage for low-income families who make up to 138 percent of the poverty level.


English, a former director of the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board and a one-time project manager at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said altering work force training and providing health insurance for working Arkansans are connected.


"My thing is, if we don’t do it now, when are we going to do it?" said English. "We’ve got to get to the system where we turn the whole thing upside down and we provide a really good work force system here that people can access with the kind of skills so that we don’t have to have everybody on food stamps, we don’t have to have everybody in the private option."


The changes that English has advocated – and that key legislators and administration officials have agreed to – include:


— Tying $15 million in existing DWS and two-year college funding to jobs training that will be administered by AEDC to meet existing industry needs.


— Establishing a coordinated effort by state agencies and private industries to identify 30,000 potentially unfilled Arkansas jobs.


— Assessing the skills needed to fill those jobs.


— Reallocating two-year school resources to put infrastructure and money in key areas of the state where job vacancies exist.


English is pushing for a top-to-bottom review of all job-training programs at two-year colleges statewide and a possible realignment of nearly $24 million in work force training money by 2015.


English said her focus for the revamped work force education initiatives are about helping the whole state, not her legislative district.


Later Tuesday afternoon, the Arkansas House will consider a bill that includes funding for the private option, but also cuts state advertising to promote the program. House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) said he is confident that the votes exist in the House and now the Senate to pass the measure, but he was cautious on the timing of the possible passage.


The House will need 75 of its 100 members to support the funding to pass the private option. Arkansas state law requires a supermajority of 75 percent of both chambers of the General Assembly to approve budget bills.