State Surplus Grows to $843 Million

NOVEMBER 9, 2006 - Posted at 12:08 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A budget presented to legislators today shows the state will have an even larger surplus for the next two years.

The balanced budget recommendation and revenue forecast presented to lawmakers today projects an $843 million surplus for the next biennium. The previous surplus estimate was for $721 million.

In fiscal year 2008, net available revenues are expected to increase 1.8 percent, or $80 million over the previous year to nearly $4.5 billion. Fiscal year 2009 net available revenue is expected to increase 3.8 percent over the previous year, or $168 million to $4.6 billion.

Politicians have recommended a number of ways to use the surplus, including a rainy-day fund, rebates for taxpayers and the elimination of the state's six-cent grocery tax.

Arkansas' colleges and universities have asked for funding increases for capital improvements, while the state Department of Health and Human Services is asking for more money to cover the costs of its Medicaid program for about 750,000 Arkansans. State prison officials also are asking for increased funding.

On top of that, lawmakers have been told that $250 million will likely be needed over the next two years for a program to repair crumbling school buildings around the state.