Arkansas Lawmakers Begin Fall Budget Hearings

OCTOBER 11, 2006 - Posted at 7:53 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Lawmakers begin fall budget hearings yesterday with a potential fight looming over the state's $721 million surplus and uncertainty over who will be in the governor's mansion during next year's legislative session.

Yesterday's session opened with a review of budget forms and procedures for newer lawmakers who were not as familiar with the budget process as more veteran legislators.  But legislators said they're already eyeing the spending decisions facing the Legislature returns in January.

One of the biggest questions is what legislators will do with the state's surplus, projected to grow from $402.7 million to $721 million by the end of this fiscal year.

Representative Rick Saunders says he hopes lawmakers approach the surplus cautiously, especially given the competing needs the state may face.

Repesentative Benny Petrus, who will serve as the House Speaker in the 2007 session, says most of the decisions facing legislators will depend on who wins the governor's race.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)