by Max Brantley
Hogzilla came out of Joint Budget ... the fat test bill cleared committee in a form exempting juniors and seniors in high school and going from annual tests to every other year and providing an opt-out. Beebe is pleased ... word is circulating about Beebe's plan to spend up most of the surplus. Legislative pork doesn't appear to be on his check list. ... a bill to provide for televising both the House and Senate on statewide TV cleared committee.
UPDATE: Re surplus, Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample says the governor has no list, that he thinks the list is the work of others, mostly adding up what Beebe has said and what is otherwise floating around. That is, up to $400 million for school construction, maybe $100 million for highways, etc. But there are strong signals that Beebe is about to swallow a big IOU left by the Huckabee administration, the $37 to $44 million the state of Arkansas took from federal Medicaid money and improperly spent on computer services. This one's a legal loser, the only question is how much. It could be paid out of the surplus. Given a chance to blame Huckabee for the tab, Beebe took the high road. He said ultimately the governor's responsible for what happens on his watch, of course, but there's context, circumstances, unknowables, etc. to consider.
Also from surplus: There's higher ed and economic development (maybe $50 million there alone) to consider, so you've got a good chunk of the $800-million-plus surplus spent before a pig has oinked or any thought has been given to a reserve fund.