The false budget hearings continue; the real action comes in January | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The false budget hearings continue; the real action comes in January

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 9:37 AM

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Rep. Duncan Baird posted the Twitter photo above of continuing budget hearings, with Gov. Mike Beebe delivering a revenue forecast this morning. He observes, mildly: "Beebe is required by law to present an official forecast for the next biennium."

The legislature, in other words, is going through the motions, just as it was yesterday when it heard the state Department of Human Services talk of the need for a $70 million increase in Medicaid spending from state general revenue and heard again the governor's belief that a scheduled tax cut of up to $50 million over the next two years should be delayed.

Revenue forecasts come from a department, Finance and Administration, soon to be among the many remade, along with, I'd guess particularly, Human Services (a very big spender) and the Department of Environmental Quality (not exactly a bastion of cutting edge greenies, but enough of a bother to some polluters that it's likely to get loving attention in these anti-regulation times.) Retirements are planned at the top of DF&A. I happen to be an admirer of the Weiss-Leathers-Stormes leadership and they've served disparate administrations with candor and accessibility. But DFA also can inject a bit of wiggle room into forecasting — it isn't a wholly precise science — that can benefit the inclinations of the current administration. A super cautious governor that doesn't want to get caught short in difficult times? A moderate sort optimistically believing the economy can produce the growth he needs to deliver a campaign promised tax cut? There's room to maneuver.

Anyway, when Democrats become an even smaller minority in the controlling committees and the Hutchinson administration takes over, everything that happens now is subject to revision.

I'll jump out on a limb and make this prediction: The new administration will make more changes across state government than Mike Beebe did. Lots more. I heard a tale the other day of a high-level agency administrator — a former Democratic legislator — maneuvering for political advantage in the new order through an employee with Republican ties. I believe his time would have been better spent working on a resume. (Please, understand: This is neither complaint nor whine. It is what you expect to happen. Votes have consequences. Victors/spoils. And so on. Not a few Democrats are still a little rankled that Beebe didn't do more of this himself eight years ago.)

PS — Beebe says that, without tax cut delay, higher education spending might be cut. There was a time when that would have been a hard sell at a legislature where the halls are stuffed with college and university lobbyists. Some of the Republican majority are not, for example, fans of the University of Arkansas. 0

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