DALLAS — Meeting in a special session, Arkansas lawmakers Saturday approved a plan to set aside $43 million in surplus funds this year and redirect revenue in later years to the state teacher insurance program.

The move is expected to limit projected premium increases to 10%. Without the additional funding from the state, premiums could have risen by 50%.

State officials estimated that an additional $54 million was needed to keep teachers' rates at the current level.

A state board in August approved increasing premiums by as much as 50% for the 47,000 teachers on the state plan starting Jan. 1. The premium for family coverage under the most popular plan would have increased from $1,029 to $1,528 a month.

"After dozens of meetings with legislators, district officials, teachers and other involved parties, we have a solution that may not please every individual group, but will help alleviate the spike in insurance rates and shore up this insurance program," Gov. Mike Beebe said in a prepared statement.

The special session opened Thursday in Little Rock with introduction of the measure to reduce insurance premiums.  Arkansas requires that three days pass between introduction of a bill and final passage.

Arkansas carries general obligation bond ratings of AA from Standard & Poor's and Aa1 from Moody's Investors Service.  Fitch Ratings does not rate the state.

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