From the quiet hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The legislature convened in special session to transfer reserve funds into operating accounts, so that state government will end the fiscal year with a balanced budget.
State revenue took a steep downturn because of the closing of restaurants, gyms, casinos and other businesses.
We’ve moved back by three months the deadline for paying taxes. Traditionally, the deadline is April 15, but this year it will be July 15. That gives some relief to people who have been hit hard by the outbreak of the coronavirus, but it also reduces state revenue.
The emergency session of the legislature was necessary because Arkansas operates under a balanced budget law, and state government was on course to end the fiscal year with a shortfall of about $353 million.
In order to balance the budget as required by the Revenue Stabilization Law, state agencies cut spending.
However, we needed to do more than make spending cuts across the board. It’s vitally important to have money on hand for medical emergencies.
For example, the state facing a shortage of face masks and other protective equipment that doctors, nurses and medical staff wear.
They are in the front lines of this national health emergency, and it’s our duty to support them the equipment and supplies they need to stay safe. That’s why we dipped into reserve funds.
During the special session, lawmakers took care to maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other. We were mindful of the importance of keeping our hands clean, so we used up a lot of soap, water and hand sanitizer.
It was a good trial run for the upcoming fiscal session. The legislature will convene again, because the Constitution mandates that we approve budgets for state agencies for next fiscal year. Those budgets have to be complete by June 30.
From the Capitol, as always it is my great honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.