March 26, 2003
Posted at: 7:15 p.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- House and Senate leaders expressed frustration Wednesday over the Legislature's lack of progress on revenue-raising measures to cover the state's budget shortage.
After more than two months in session the General Assembly has yet to address anticipated revenue shortages for Medicaid and prisons over the next two years. It hasn't even determined how much more revenue is needed.
A proposal that includes a 10 percent income tax surcharge received little support from either chamber and there was no consensus for the lesser ambitious tax measures being considered.
Senate president pro tem Jim Hill says he and House Speaker Herschel Cleveland are at their wits' end and frustrated with the lack of progress. The legislative leaders are focusing on generating enough new revenue to cover an anticipated $90 million shortfall in Medicaid, the government-subsidized health program for the poor, elderly and disabled, and $63 million more for the state Department of Correction.
Cleveland referred to a University of Arkansas at Little Rock study that show that $100 million in state dollars spent on Medicaid would draw $300 million in federal funds and generate thousands of jobs, while failure to make the investment would result in immediate and severe cuts in human services programs.