May 2, 2003
Posted at 3:25 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Governor Huckabee issued a formal proclamation today for a special session beginning Monday to pass a state budget for the next two years.
His proclamation was drawn to narrowly consider 53 bills for 45 state agencies. That includes 30 agencies that did not get budgets passed during the regular session.
The call authorizes consideration of various tax increases to cover a more than $200 million shortfall anticipated over the next two years, mostly in Medicaid and prison funding.
It also would allow legislators to consider appropriations for county jail reimbursements, a new veterans home in Fayetteville and other projects from the General Improvement Fund.
The governor says it would not open the door for a contentious argument over the flow of state money to local construction projects in tough economic times.
The session is scheduled to begin 11 days after the regular session ended abruptly without the House and Senate agreeing on a $12 billion dollar budget for the two-year period that begins July.
Though legislators since then have reached no consensus on a tax increase to cover the shortfall, Huckabee says they have no choice but to pass a budget next week or decide that they can't.
He says if they can't, the state will have to begin shutting down human services programs and prison units whose funding would be cut, and begin notifying college students their scholarships would not be honored.
Huckabee says he will address a joint session of the House and Senate on Monday and hopes his remarks will set the tone for the session.