by Max Brantley
If you care to take a break from football, you can get into the Beebe budget by clicking on Roby Brock's Talk Business blog.
UPDATE: On the jump is Gov. Beebe's release on his budget proposal. Note a 10 percent bump for higher education.
BEEBE NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK – Governor Mike Beebe submitted his balanced budget Wednesday morning to the General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee.
“This budget aims to move Arkansas forward and benefit all Arkansans while emphasizing new initiatives in key areas of service,” Beebe said. “By including the grocery tax cut in the balanced budget, we are building the foundation to ensure that this tax relief can survive into the future instead of using one-time surplus money for a quick fix.”
Among the highlights of the biennial budget are the following:
$174.4 million over the next biennium for an immediate reduction in the state sales tax on food by half, from 6% to 3%.
Increases in both teacher salaries and funding for the Arkansas Better Chance Program for pre-kindergarten children.
Continued increases in foundation funding for education to meet the Supreme Court’s mandate.
Establishment of a $1,000 college scholarship fund for low-income families using existing balances in the Higher Education Grants Fund.
A ten-percent overall increase in funding for Higher Education.
Utilizing the Medicaid Trust Fund to ensure critical medical services for elderly and low-income Arkansans.
An increase in the Homestead Property Tax Credit from $300 to $350. The increase will be funded from the special fund that was established for the credit.
New funds to address foster care and residential services or at-risk youth, treatment programs for disabled adolescents and a new 16-bed treatment unit at the State Hospital.
Funding to continue the success of drug courts and substance-abuse treatment programs. This includes a new unit in Northwest Arkansas and a new Transitional Housing Program for inmates returning to open society.
Funding to add 60 probation officers to the Department of Community Correction to ease case loads and help rehabilitation efforts.
Opening 200 more women’s beds for the Department of Correction and phasing in the long-planned Special Needs Unit in Malvern.
A reduction in the sales tax rate on gas and electricity consumption for manufacturers from 6% to 5%.
Replaces the sales tax on farm fuel with a per-gallon tax to prevent dramatic cost increases for farmers in the future.
Governor Beebe’s budget proposal submitted Wednesday includes only general revenue dollars, and does not address the State’s one-time surplus money, federal funds or special revenues.