LITTLE ROCK — Two weeks before unveiling his plan to balance a $4.7 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Gov. Mike Beebe suggested Wednesday that spending hikes will be sparse and cuts likely to address a Medicaid shortfall.
The Beebe administration is scheduled to present the governor’s Fiscal 2013-14 budget on Nov. 15 during fall budget hearings being held in advance of the regular legislative session that convenes Jan. 14.
Beebe said Wednesday he expects his budget proposal to keep spending flat. He gave few details but said higher education would not get the $136.9 million increase it requested, although some "targeted money" would go to colleges and universities that have specific needs.
The governor also said some cuts and shifting of funds are likely to address a shortfall in the Medicaid program that is projected to reach $250 million to $400 million in the fiscal year that begins next July 1. He declined to give specifics.
Despite the anticipated shortfall, the governor has said he supports expanding the government program for the poor, the elderly and the disabled under an optional provision of the federal health care reform law to cover about 250,000 more Arkansans. The federal government would pay the entire cost of the expansion for three years, and state human services officials have said the influx of additional federal money would actually save the state money in the Medicaid program.
Republicans have been cool to the expansion.
The state’s current $4.7 billion budget, approved by the Legislature during a fiscal session earlier this year, kept spending flat for most agencies but included a $114 million increase for Medicaid and a $56 million increase for public schools and increases in funding for some colleges and universities.
In 2011, the Legislature approved a $4.6 billion budget, which included modest funding increases for public schools and prisons, but also cuts to most other state agency budgets. It also eliminated a 1.86 percent cost-of-living raise for state employees.
Reporter John Lyon contributed to this report.