DALLAS — The Arkansas General Assembly wrapped up its first-ever budget session on Wednesday as both chambers passed identical fiscal 2011 budget bills totaling $4.48 billion.

The two chambers on Thursday adopted each other’s budget bill, ending the newly mandated fiscal session five days early. The session convened Feb. 8.

Officially known as the Revenue Stabilization Act, the fiscal 2011 budget bill passed the Senate on a 35-to-0 vote and the House by a margin of 94 to 5.

Five Republican representatives, including Minority Leader Bryan King of Green Forest, voted against the budget bill.

The measure allocates $4.48 billion to state agencies in fiscal 2011, which is almost $176 million more than in fiscal 2010. The 2011 budget includes the state’s first spending increase since fiscal 2008.

The bill restores most of the $206 million cut in two rounds of budget cuts made in fiscal 2010 by Gov. Mike Beebe as revenue declined faster than expected.

Before adopting the comprehensive budget bill, lawmakers approved a transfer of $21 million from the unclaimed property fund to the public school fund and a $25 million transfer from the budget stabilization fund to cover income tax refunds.

The budget session was the first one held under the provisions of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008.

Until this year, the General Assembly met in odd-numbered years to develop a two-year budget. Amendment 86 requires annual budgets, with the session in even-numbered years limited to 30 days and restricted to fiscal measures. 

The newly adopted budget is based on the latest forecast by the Department of Finance and Administration of fiscal 2011 revenues.

The state expects to generate $4.5 billion in net general fund revenue, up $89.5 million from fiscal 2010, according to the December forecast. Expected revenue includes $2.2 billion in individual income taxes, $2.09 billion in sales tax revenue, and $351 million in corporate income taxes.

A report from the finance department earlier this month said available general revenue in the first seven months of fiscal 2010 totaled $2.69 billion. That is $22.9 million less than collected in the first seven months of fiscal 2009, but $1.8 million more than expected in the latest revenue forecast for the year.

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