by Max Brantley
Gov. Mike Beebe says he's delivered on his pronounced intentions to bargain in good faith with Republican legislators seeking to cut more spending from the state budget.
He's released a list of $678,000 in cuts.
* $90,162 from the Labor Department by giving up vacant position and moving others to a federal program, which will reduce federal match and require future layoffs.
* $260,000 from Higher Education, mostly by not filling the vacant director's position and letting interim Shane Broadway remain in charge. Brilliant. Gives Broadway the job for the rest of Beebe's tenure as the governor had wanted, but wasn't possible on "permanent" basis because he lacked statutory education qualifications.
* $126,319 from Department of Environmental Quality, by across-the-board savings.
* $97,946 from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority through non-participation in innovation initiatives (which Beebe says would be a loss in economic development.)
* $104,158 from the Natural Resources Commission by cutting aid to local
conservative conservation districts.
* $47,002 from the program to help rural communities with water and sewer projects.
Beebe also said the Department of Education would find another $250,000 in its existing budget to fund Arkansas Governor's School for six, rather than four, weeks.
UPDATE: I really didn't talk to anyone in the governor's office before writing my item this morning listing some hitches I saw in the Republican plan to dedicate $40 million in expected coming surplus to Medicaid. But Gov. Mike Beebe apparently identified in that idea the same inflexibility that I saw and says he doesn't support it.
UPDATE II: Rep. John Burris, who's been holding up introduction of the state budget bill, says he'll vote for it today. It takes a two-third votes to introduce in the fiscal session, a weird quirk, but only a majority vote to pass. He wants the $40 million Medicaid trust fund and says he'll settle for $2 million in cuts against the $678,000 Beebe has identified, but the governor doesn't seem likely to go along. Burris won't get his $21 million in cuts, that's clear. But this dispute isn't over. What the Senate has in store could be decisive.
UPDATE III: The House voted to allow introduction of the budget bill. Only a handful of dissenters.