Lawmakers Look to Dip into State Surplus


In Arkansas, the Joint Budget Committee controls the purse strings. This year, there are a lot of open hands reaching for the state's surplus, but not all legislators are willing to dole out the dough."We're here to set a budget. This isn't about bringing home the bacon. This is about spending the money right, balancing our budget and doing what's right for the people of the state," said Rep. John Burris R-Harrison.Among the $83 million in requests, are requests for $2 million to build a new state police training track, $5 million for positive youth development grants, and $10 million that Sen. Jason Rapert says is necessary for the state to meet its obligations for the developmentally disabled."In my opinion, when you have the money to do what needs to be done for the least among us, we should do that," said Sen {}Rapert R-Conway.The Department of Human Services identified one facility alone that needs @6 million in repairs. In fact, most members would agree that many items on the list do need the money."When you have 100 members, everybody has got a good idea, but in the end of the day we only have so much money," said Rep. Burris.Some lawmakers said they would rather keep most, if not all, of the money in the bank for the future."You don't want to drain that dry. We've got an obligation for the next administration and the next legislature," said Governor Mike Beebe.In the end, all agree that it comes down to priorities, and Senator Rapert believes his request should be at the top of that list."If we can't get all of it, please just make sure that we don't put cable in the ground somewhere, and we don't do some other project, when we know that we have 900 people, over 900 people, in these centers that need our care," said Rapert.Six of the 15 requests are for the Department of Corrections totaling $29 million. The committee will decide the whether to pass the bills or not Thursday morning.