Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe opened the legislature’s first fiscal session last week with a plea for quick action on the state’s $4.5 billion general fund budget for fiscal 2011.

The session to be “short and sweet,” Beebe said during his address to the 87th General Assembly, ending with: “Let’s get to work.”

The governor is seeking legislative approval for a rainy-day fund of $34 million from surplus funds “so that I can work with the Legislature to target critical needs that may arise during this time of fiscal uncertainty.” If the money is not needed in fiscal 2011, it would go back into the general fund, Beebe said.

The legislature convened at noon on Feb. 8 for the first budget session as established by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2008.

The Senate budget committee is considering 120 appropriations bills. House members have filed 154 spending bills. The 30-day budget session will end March 9 unless three-quarters of lawmakers agree to an extension.

As a result of the amendment, the state will have annual rather than biannual budgets, with a regular legislative session in odd-numbered years and a dedicated budget session in even-numbered years.

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