by Max Brantley
Review of the state budget began today, but there's a certain Groundhog Day flavor to it given how much has already been written previously. We already knew:
* FORESTRY: a committee would be named to lookinto the debt-ridden Forestry Commission in advance of consideration of Gov. Mike Beebe's call for a $2.7 supplmental appropriation to pay off improper borrowing of federal money to keep the agency operating.
* STATE EMPLOYEES: The governor has proposed no COLA for state employees.
* SPENDING INCREASES: what little additional money is available is headed mainly to education ($56.6 million or a 2.9 percent increase) and Medicaid, $114.3 million, or a 16.5 percent increase in the state's share.
Also, while Republicans haven't issued an ultimatum yet, they don't sound from this willing to vote an extra appropriation for Forestry (and I believe that will take a 75 percent vote) as long as the current agency director, John Shannon, remains in place.