It was a good week for Arkansas's financial health 

It was a good week for...

ARKANSAS'S FINANCIAL HEALTH. The state revenue report for the budget year ending June 30 was a bright one — $145 million surplus on gross revenues of $5.9 billion. Putting that aside will go a long way, one time, to covering coming increases in Medicaid costs — projected to rise somewhere from $250 million to $400 million in 2013. The net revenue increased 3.9 percent over the previous year, with increases in all the major income categories — sales tax and corporate and personal income tax. Gross revenue was up more than 4 percent.

ARKANSAS'S MEDICAL HEALTH. Gov. Mike Beebe indicated that he favors Medicaid expansion in Arkansas as prescribed by the Affordable Care Act. The coming election will be crucial in determining whether the legislature allows him to proceed. If Republicans have their way, they would deny some 200,000 poor Arkansans health care.

PETITIONERS. Representatives for ballot initiatives for a severance tax increase and medical marijuana say they have collected the required number of signatures to get their measures on the November ballot. The Regnat Populus group pushing an ethics reform act have said it is close. Those backing an act that would allow casinos in the state haven't said.

TRANSPARENCY. The much-ballyhooed on-line Arkansas checkbook is up and running (transparency.arkansas.gov), though you'll have to wait until July 6 before expenditures of each agency and contract data are accessible. This new database includes not just state agencies, but the offices of elected officials.

It was a bad week for...

THE PEABODY DUCKS. The Peabody Hotel Group signed an agreement to sell the Little Rock Peabody to Fairwood Capital, a Memphis-based real estate investment firm, which is considering several upscale hotel franchises with which to partner.

U.S. REP. MIKE ROSS. The U.S. House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not turning over enough documents about Justice Department deliberations over an investigation of a gun-running probe in Arizona. The vote was 255-67, with 109 not voting as an expression of contempt for the purely political act. The core elements of the Republican complaint — administrative complicity in allowing guns to reach illegal hands — are no longer in question. If any problem existed, it was a lack of sufficient gun laws to justify prosecutions against people who buy guns in bulk to put in the hands of criminals. That didn't stop lame duck congressman Ross, a gun lobby toady, from voting with the Republicans.


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