Gov. Mike Beebe told the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s annual convention last week that he supports using up to $60 million of the state’s anticipated surplus of $310 million from fiscal 2009 to pay for some of the $146 million of unfunded requests in his preliminary budget for fiscal 2010.
Beebe said the surplus funds would allow the state to cover projected shortfalls in the money available for Medicaid and prisons.
The governor did not cite a specific amount, but said the current economic slump could require the state to use $50 million to $60 million to temporarily fill in the gaps.
“Whatever parameters, whatever safeguards, whatever controls that the Legislature feels would be reasonable, I’ve suggested that they include those things,” he said.
Beebe said the proposed economic stimulus plan for the states outlined by President-elect Barack Obama should not penalize Arkansas for its surplus while 40 other states may be facing a combined deficit of at least $24 billion.
“I don’t begrudge the fact that Michigan might need more help than somebody else. They’ve got huge unemployment numbers,” he said during a news conference in Hot Springs following his Farm Bureau speech. “However, it doesn’t mean you totally leave out those folks that aren’t hurting as bad because they’ve done better in their stewardship.
“You can’t do public policy that discourages good stewardship and good government and good sound fiscal policies by saying, 'Well, they’re going to do OK, we don’t have to help them,’ ” Beebe said.