HOUSE NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (February 8, 2010) – Gaveling the Arkansas House of Representatives to order to begin the state’s first-ever Fiscal Session, House Speaker Robbie Wills encouraged fellow state representatives to be, “concise, focused and brief.”
“The people of Arkansas always seem to have a sixth sense about what’s best for them individually, and for our state,” Wills said in his opening remarks. “Because, you see, this first-ever fiscal session couldn’t have come at a better time.” But, he said, legislators needed to, “Get in, get the job done, and get home.”
Wills citied the current economy as being severely impacted by the most challenging set of circumstances since the Great Depression, noting a housing crisis that led to a banking crisis, which led ultimately to a “crisis of confidence.”
“As we gather here today, a hundred thousand Arkansans are looking for work, and we have the highest unemployment our state has seen in over 20 years,” he said. “In this limited session, we have the opportunity to do something to meet these challenges. And that opportunity is to be good stewards of our financial resources, prioritize state spending, and pass a balanced budget.”
Mandated by Amendment 86 to the state’s Constitution, the even-numbered-year fiscal sessions are required to determine the state’s budget for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1. Budget bills will be the only measures considered, unless three-fourths of both the House and the Senate agree to take up other measures. Two non-budget bills thought to have wide agreement for consideration are the Revenue Stabilization Act to prioritize the state’s funding of programs, and the level of scholarship awards made available by net proceeds from the new Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.
Commenting on the state’s Revenue Stabilization Act, Wills said, “We’ll also vote on the Revenue Stabilization Act, which will set our spending priorities. Those priorities include continuing economic development efforts to create jobs; Pre-K through 12 and higher education funding to prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow; and workforce education and training to meet job opportunities of a changing economy.”
The session is limited to 30 days. A one-time extension of 15 days may be approved by the House and Senate with a 2/3 vote of each body. The session is expected to be concluded by early March.