COPY-Ark. lawmakers to discuss forestry layoffs

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas lawmakers are continuing to look at the Forestry Commission's decision to lay off 34 employees to help close a $4 million budget shortfall.

A Legislative Council subcommittee planned to discuss the commission layoffs at a hearing on Tuesday. The commission in December announced the layoffs, which took effect last month.

The commission initially blamed the shortfall on a drop in revenue from timber severance taxes, but finance officials have said that the agency was improperly borrowing from federal grants to prop up its budget.

A budget panel has recommended restoring 20 employees to the commission starting July 1, but has not recommended a way to pay for the new positions. A separate legislative panel is expected to review an audit of the commission later this week.

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