LITTLE ROCK — With the debate over the private option out of the way, state legislators are focused on completing the state budget process.
Rep. Duncan Baird, R-Lowell, co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, told House members Wednesday that the amendment to the Revenue Stabilization Act — the Legislature’s means of setting spending priorities for the coming fiscal year — has to be on on the calendar of the Joint Budget Committee for a day before that panel votes on it and has to be on the House and Senate calendars for three days before those bodies vote on it.
"In the past, we’ve always tried to time that three days over the weekend," Baird said, adding that for that to happen, appropriations, the RSA and requests to use money from the state surplus should be taken care of this week.
House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said that if everything goes smoothly, lawmakers should only need two days next week to wrap up the session’s business.
"Whether that’s Tuesday and Wednesday or Monday and Tuesday, whatever the two-day scenario is, that’s what we’re looking at," he said.
Talking to reporters later, Carter said he did not anticipate any major changes to Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposed $5 billion budget. He also said lawmakers’ proposals for using surplus funds total between $80 million and $90 million.
"I don’t really personally want to spend much of that, if any," Carter said.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Wednesday the governor also does not want to spend much of the surplus.
"He wants to leave some, obviously, for the next governor and the Legislature next year," DeCample said.